Composting is a process where micro and macro organisms (bacteria, worms, and more) decompose natural materials (including leaves, fruits, and vegetables) into earthy matter. This earthy matter is compost and we add it to our garden beds to enrich the plants. Composting is probably the best and easiest way to start in your self-sufficient journey. As the United States Department of Agriculture points out, effective composting creates the ideal environment for bacteria and other decomposing microorganisms. When done correctly, the finished product looks and feels like “fertile garden soil” and can help the soil thrive.
Compost can be made from your kitchen leftovers, grass clippings, dead leaves, branches, wood chips, water, and oxygen. It can be made in any container or even a pile designated as your compost pile. Creating a good compost requires the right balance between green and brown matter, as well as the ideal conditions to get a good carbon to nitrogen ratio. Composting also reduces your trash. Use some sort of bucket located in your kitchen to collect your kitchen scraps, you can use any container or tub with a lid.
Green Matter, nitrogen suppliers includes animal bedding, coffee grounds, cover crops and garden weeds (that haven’t gone to seed), crop residue (tomato vines), grass clippings, juice pulp, kitchen leftovers, manure, seaweed, tea bags.
Brown Matter, carbon suppliers includes cardboard, dried leaves, newspaper, office paper, sawdust (avoiding plywood or treated wood), spoiled hay, straw, wood shavings, wood chips. You can start your compost by layering the materials or just mix them all together. You will need more brown material than green. A good compost ratio is 1/3 kitchen craps, 1/3 brown matter and 1/3 other green matter. Collect all grass clipping and yard trash but be certain to mix with the brown materials like leaves and shredded paper to add carbon.
Not To Compost
Do not compost meats, dairy products, processed foods, plastic, man made substances or pet dropping. Don’t compost magazines, catalogs, old business cards or cards and wrapping paper or papers with the glossy appearance. As chemicals and toxic substance in them can be damaging for your plants later. However, you can compost newspapers, textbook pages or papers with less or no ink. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only. Avoid all pesticides or herbicide treated material. Keep your compost damp but not wet.
Rotate and Mix your Pile
Turnover the pile as often as you can. Every time you turn it will speed up the procedure. worms and most bugs are OK. Rotating it is a very important component of composting because it ensures that oxygen is introduced to all areas of your compost. The bacterium that primarily breaks down the compost is aerobic, meaning it needs oxygen. Rotating your compost will help accelerate the breakdown process.
Compost piles do not need to be watered every day. However, if they dry out completely, they won’t really do much composting and many of the beneficial insects, bacteria, stuff will leave or die. If you keep your pile moist, you will have much better composting results. A compost pile needs to about about 135-160 degrees Fahrenheit. Your issue could be size. A small compost pile just doesn’t have enough material to cook. So add more good stuff and keep it moist.
Choose a container or area that is easy for you to access, because you need to make sure it is moist enough. It needs to be moist but not overly wet if it is too dry pour some water and green materials to moisten it. If it is too wet add some brown materials and mix or rotate it. After cutting veggies or fruit, toss the scraps in the bucket. Coffee grounds can get thrown in, filter and all. Egg shells are also great for your compost. When the bucket is full, take your scraps outside to the compost pile. Clear a hole in your pile, dump the scraps and cover them over with dirt or soil. This will prevent attracting too much wildlife to your pile. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years.
Location for Composting
This depends on your climate. If you live in a very hot dry climate, it’s not a great idea to put the compost in the direct summer sun. Make sure it’s in the shade and that it has a good amount of moisture. Worms can easily turn to worm jerky, and the pile will dry out too fast and won’t compost. If you have a climate that is cold most of the year, you will likely only be composting outside during the summer months, however it is possible to compost inside with worms in the winter if you choose to do so. Winter composting is like summer composting but in slow motion. In the coldest weather, the process simply stalls and the food scraps freeze. When temperatures rise above freezing, the process resumes.
Composting is a great way to recycle materials while giving you the benefit of free, usable, nutrient-rich material for your garden. It doesn’t require a lot and is a natural process that occurs when organic material decays and is amazing to help your plants grow.