Learn how to home compost with the help of Blain’s Farm & Fleet.
Thinking of starting your own organic garden? The cornerstone to organic gardening is compost and learning how to home compost is a good way to start. Composting is actually fairly easy to do. All you need is a bit of recycled garden or lawn trimmings, some everyday kitchen waste, a little love and a little patience. Nature will take over from there. So why not keep unnecessary waste out of the landfill? Use it instead to stimulate a beautiful, nutrient-rich garden.
Benefits of Composting
Compost is great for the soil and plants living in the soil. Compost adds vital nutrients to soil and increases soil structure, porosity and density. It maintains proper pH balance and moisture in soil which keeps your plants healthy and happy. Compost can even help with weeds control!
Making compost is also environmentally friendly as it keeps unnecessary waste from landfills. Compost helps prevent soil pollution, cleans contaminated soil and stops corrosion. Using compost is also a low cost, earth-friendly way to reduce the need for water, fertilizers and pesticides.
For successful compost, you will need an equal amount of green (high carbon) and brown (high nitrogen) waste. Examples of green waste include: garden waste, grass clippings, hay, vegetable scarps, food waste, shredded newspaper, cardboard, hedge clippings and leaves. Examples of brown waste include: tea leaves, coffee grounds, flowers, lawn weeds, green leaves, fruit scraps, peanut shells, pine needles and shredded twigs. Do not compost items such as meat or fish bones, pet waste, glass, plastic, perennial weeds, chemically treated yard trimmings or diseased plants. Read through our composting do’s and don’ts for more tips.
Home Compost Instructions
1. Choose the right compost bin. There are a few ways to create your compost bin. You can recycle or buy a plastic garbage can with a tight fitting lid. Try the Rubbermaid Brute Wheeled Refuse Can because the wheels make it easy to maneuver. It also has a tight fitting lid to keep critters out and soil moist. Make sure your tarp is mildew resistant and rot free like the Agrimaster Heavy Duty Tarp. Using this method allows you to build your compost pile on the earth.
2. Pick the right place. To set up your compost bin, first select a semi-shaded area in your yard away from your home. If you live in an apartment or do not have a yard, try putting your bin on the patio or next to the garage. If you are using the garbage can as a bin, you will need to drill approximately 25 holes throughout the bottom, top and sides to allow air flow. The smaller the drill bit and holes, the better.
3. Layer up. To start composting, first lay down a couple inches of twigs or hay. This will help with drainage and aerating your pile. Then alternate green layers and brown layers of material you have collected. You will want to keep your pile slightly moist so you may need to lightly water if your ingredients do not provide any moisture. Be careful of making the pile too moist. If your pile is too wet, you will attract fruit flies and if it is too dry, you can attract wasps. A thin layer of garden soil may be placed on top to help mask odors.
4. Stir the compost pile. Once a week, give your compost pile a little stir. Turning your pile will help aerate your pile and breakdown ingredients faster. Oxygen is needed for this process to work. If you are using a garbage can and it gets too heavy to turn, try turning it on its side and rolling it through your yard for a few minutes. You can also use a manure fork to manually turn the compost. After you have turned your pile, you can add another few layers of green and brown ingredients that you have collected in the past couple days.
5. Chop waste into smaller pieces. For faster decomposition, make sure you chop the materials into smaller pieces rather than big pieces. Smaller pieces decompose faster and decomposition time is reduced. Also, remember to check the pile’s moisture.
6. Let it cool down. When the scraps are fully decomposed, from top to bottom, do not use it yet. Newly decomposed compost still contains a lot of heat that may kill the plants. To avoid this, make sure the scraps are well decomposed. Remove the lid of the bin and place the bin in a sheltered area away from direct sun and rain. Leave the bin for two days or until the compost is cool enough to touch. We recommend turning your pile and leaving it again for a few days to cool. Repeat this step until the entire pile has cooled.
You will know your home compost is ready when the color turns into a dark, rich brown and the pile smells fresh and earthy. The estimated time frame from starting your compost pile to it be finished and ready to use depends on how large your pile is, how well you have maintained it and what ingredients you have added along the way. On average, compost takes 3-5 months from start to finish. Don’t use it all though! Remember to save about a ¼ of your original compost so you can start the process all over again.