Turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste in to dark, rich compost to use for your garden.
The strongest, largest garden plants we have ever grown have been started in the rich humus created by our outdoor compost pile. No extra fertilizer required!
Composting creates a dark, moist, fertile, nutrient-rich soil for starting seeds and growing garden plants. Add it to your garden soil as it is or make beneficial liquid fertilizer to water you plants with. It adds beneficial organisms to the soil that break down organic matter, help aerate the soil, and ward off diseases.
While all organic matter will naturally decompose, by making the conditions just right for microorganisms to do their thing, home composting will help speed up the process. There are many different ways to create these conditions. Here are two ways we have use.
Outdoor Compost Pile:
Fall is probably the best time to start this outdoor project. This is the time of year you have the most yard waste and around here garden/kitchen food scraps from preserving the harvest.
Just like us, a compost pile needs food, water, and air (oxygen) to stay alive. Well, the microorganisms that cause the compost pile to do its thing do.
To get started with an outdoor compost pile or bin, clear a spot on the ground in the shade. Be sure it is free of sticks, twigs, and other debris. You can place this directly on the ground or build a simple enclosure from scrap lumber and chicken wire or fencing.
Ours is in the woods, in a small clearing, away from trees and roots. Start your pile with loose, dried leaves or straw. This allows air to circulate under your pile.
Add nitrogen-based food (also called “greens”); kitchen food scraps (No dairy or meat products), weeds, grass clippings (No clumps or pesticides, please), coffee grounds, egg shells, and animal waste. (No dog, cat, or rodent waste).
Add some carbon-based food (also called “browns”); more leaves or straw, ashes from your fireplace, shredded paper, pine needles, hay, animal bedding, cardboard, dryer lint, sawdust, or other chemical-free organic matter.
Mix/turn your compost pile every few weeks, as you add kitchen scraps, leaves, and other organic matter, using a pitch fork or shovel. This will add oxygen to the pile and allow the materials to break down faster.
Keep your compost pile moist. A good rule of thumb: keep the moisture the dampness of a wrung out sponge. If it hasn’t rained in a while, mist it with water. If it rains frequently, you can cover the pile with cardboard to keep the rain from saturating the pile. If the pile gets too wet, add more organic material and turn it in.
By spring, you will have beautiful, rich compost to use for starting plants, and fertilizing your garden.
Keep an airtight container or mini compost pail on your counter or in a cabinet in your kitchen to collect food waste. We have a small crock with a lid that our kids empty every day as part of their kitchen chores. Emptying it every day will keep odors away and help keep fruit flies to a minimum.
Rotate your compost piles, so you can use from one pile while adding organic matter to another to be broken down.
To use your compost, remove from the bottom of the pile. There you will find the oldest, darkest humus.
Compost Tumbler/ Bin:
This method of composting is a little easier, but less cost effective. You can either purchase a compost tumbler/bin or “make” one yourself using a trashcan with a secured lid.
A purchased compost tumbler/bin usually has built-in methods for turning and aeration and is very simple to use.
To use a trashcan, drill ½ inch holes in the bottom, spaced about 5-6 inches apart. Use the same method as above, layering compost materials in the bottom of the trashcan. Add water as needed. Turn the trashcan on its side and roll from side to side to turn your compost.
Since they are made of plastic, you may choose to bring your compost bin indoors to a garage or basement in the winter to avoid damage and for more efficient year-round use.