Composting 101: All You Need To Know To Get Started!
Last week, I shared 10 Easy Ways To Go Green, and mentioned towards the end of the post that I would tell you all you need to know to start composting at home.
I know a lot of people are surprised to find out they I compost at home, because a people often relate composting with bad smelling decaying piles of nastiness. If you compost right, you will never smell it! And there are lots of products out there that can help keep your composting invisible. But before we get into all of that, let’s explain what compost is.
Simply put, composting is nature’s way of recycling! Compost is decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer. Things like egg shells, Chiquita banana peels, food scraps from veggies, cardboard egg cartons, some paper products, the lint from your clothes dryer, hair, and more can all be made into compost. By following a few simple rules, you can compost at home and return nutrients back into the soil in your garden and yard.
One of the first questions I’m asked about composting is what compost looks like when it’s finished. It looks like soil – it’s a dark brown color, crumbly (like fertilizer you might buy at the gardening center) and smells like a forest floor…it smells earthy and natural, not at all stinky.
So how do you start? Well, there are a few options.
Start A Compost Pile
You can start a compost pile in your backyard if you have lots of room to work with. If you live in the suburbs and the houses are built closely together with small yards (like ours) or have small kids or animals that get into everything, starting a compost pile might not be an option. Eartheasy.com had a great article on how to start a compost pile.
Buy A Compost Bin or Tumbler
This is the route I went. Compost bins are enclosed on the sides and top, and open on the bottom so they sit directly on the ground. I had a spot in my backyard that is on the side of the house and that’s where my Garden Gourmet is set up. It was inexpensive to purchase, easy to set up, and large enough to make a ton of compost. Little did I know when I bought it, compost bins are difficult to turn the compost (you have to use a shovel or rake and really get in there), so it can take several months to produce compost.
A tumbler, on the other hand, costs more than a bin, but are much more user friendly. You simply turn the tumbler a few days a week and the composting process is much quicker. I just recently ordered a tumbler, and can’t wait to start using it when it gets here this week!
And now it’s time to start composting! I have this cute little ceramic compost pail in my kitchen that I put all of our food scraps in throughout the day. I dump the pail into the compost bin once a day. But you don’t need anything fancy – if you are dumping your scraps once a day you could just put them in a covered container, or just dump them as you go. It’s up to you!
What can you compost? I mentioned some things earlier in the post (word to the wise: if you are going to compost egg shells, they take forever to break down. I suggest breaking them into tiny pieces before adding them to your compost.) You can also compost fruit peels, cardboard, leaves, grass clippings, old dead plants and flowers, hay, newspaper, paper (junk mail!), and coffee grounds (with the filter). There are so many other things, too! TLC has a list of 75 Things You Can Compost, But Thought You Couldn’t that is worth checking out.
There are also things you can NEVER compost! These are things that will make your compost stink and also ultimately can also end up making the fertilizer toxic. Meat products (including fat, grease, oil and bones), feces (urine is okay, believe it or not), used cat liter, colored paper, weeds (or else weeds will grow again where you use the compost) and limes (the acid is horrible for the delicate balance required to make compost). And if something is toxic or isn’t biodegradable, don’t try to compost it!
So there you have it! Now you can start composting at home – it’s nature’s natural way to recycle!
Do you compost? If so what dos and donts do you have to share?
Photo Source: normanack