You don’t need a large facility or a large area to make compost. In fact, you can do it right at home-- feeding your garden and reducing your waste. The first two steps to composting at home are selecting a bin and a location.
Place your bin in a partially shaded place in your back yard. To keep compost from drying out, keep it your bin out of direct sunlight. Choose a location that is close to water and/or close to the kitchen for convenience. Make sure you chose a location your bin can be in for a long time, as it can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months to produce compost.
There are many different bins and tumblers available for sale and many have different features. Compost bins can usually be found in the spring and summer at stores that carry garden supplies. Small, indoor bins are also available for people without yards. You can also build your own. Several web sites offer free plans. Another option is to simply skip the bin and choose to have a pile. Make sure if you have a pile that it is away from your home and other structures and has plenty of air circulation. Make your pile no smaller than 3’ x 3’ x 3’.
To ensure success, follow these simple guidelines:
- Moisture: Your compost should be moist, but not sopping wet. The more green material (cut grass, leaves) you put in, the less water you’ll need to add. If you need to add water, be careful not to add too much or your waste won’t decompose. Too little water and you’ll kill the bacteria as well.
- Aeration: Make sure that the bacteria in your compost gets sufficient air by turning the pile often and well. Use a pitch fork, spade, or compost aerator to mix your pile. If you chose a compost tumbler just crank the lever. Do this every 2 to 4 weeks.
- Temperature: A compost pile that is working well will produce temperatures of 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because as they eat, the organisms responsible for composting generate large amounts of heat. As organic material in a compost pile heats up, it breaks down and takes up less space. A compost pile can shrink up to 70% as it “cooks.”
- Adding Materials: when adding organic waste to your compost, don’t squash the materials down to make more space. You need that air to turn your garbage into gold. Include a mixture of brown fibrous ingredients and greens. This will help speed up the process. Also shred, dice, or tear scraps smaller which will help the resident bacteria do a good job in converting the garbage into compost. When adding food scraps, cover the scraps with grass, leaves, sawdust or other material to reduce odor.
Compost is finished when it’s a dark, rich color, crumbles easily, and you can’t pick out any of the original ingredients. It should have a sweet, earthy smell.
What to Compost
Materials placed in your compost bin should include brown and green wastes. Brown wastes are carbon materials and include decayed leaves, wood chips, hay and straw, and shredded paper. Green wastes are nitrogen materials and include grass clippings, food wastes, old plants, and coffee grounds.
Use compost in the following ways:
- Every time you turn over soil in a vegetable or flower bed, add an inch or so of compost.
- Use compost when you are planting or transplanting flowers, vegetables, and other small non woody plants. Add an inch of compost to the bottom of the planting hole.
- Spread a layer of compost over the bare soil of your garden. Cover the compost with mulch to keep it from drying out.
- Add small amounts of compost to potted plants as fertilizer.
- Before planting or placing sod on a new lawn, place a 2- 3 inch layer of compost on existing soil. Use a rotary tiller to work the compost into the soil at least 6 to 8 inches.
- For existing lawns, top-dress the lawn in the fall or early spring with 1/2 inch of compost every year or two. Aerate the lawn before or after you spread the material.
- Spread a 1/2 inch to 1 inch layer of compost on the bare soil under a new tree as far as the drip line. Cover it with a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch to keep the compost from drying out. Make sure that you leave a 4 to 6 inch zone between the trunk and where the mulch begins.
Helpful Composting Videos
Helpful Compost Links
For more information regarding composting, visit the following links: