Composting Basics

I’m working on my compost pile this Memorial Day weekend.  It was time to spread the compost that had become compost here and there on my garden beds.
IMG_6812Composting is not rocket science.  Think of it as a thrifty, no waste method of treating your kitchen scraps and yard waste.  To put it bluntly, composting is how we refine dead, non-protein based organic matter by hastening along the decaying process with the use of heat, water, air and time.  (Yes, there is a way to compost protein based stuff, but I don’t do that and we aren’t going into that here).

A compost pile can be giant or it can be small. At the place where I work we have a giant compost pile, one that requires turning with a tractor.  Here at the house I have what works for me – a person who works full time, a person with dogs, and someone who is composting kitchen scraps that were discarded by only two people.  I have a small compost pile that I turn with whatever is handy.

So, in a few words, here is how you compost:

  • You have a designated spot – a spot big enough for your situation. You can use a $500 compost turner that you ordered off of Amazon or you can simply have a spot on the ground where you throw stuff.  I have a small bin built out of concrete blocks.  This is what works for me.
  • You discard your fruit and vegetable waste from the cutting board or from the produce drawer where it got soggy because you let it stay there too long.   You can also discard your used tea bags and coffee grounds.  Bonus!  IMG_6814
  • You add some stiff, dry things to kind of balance out all that moldy, soggy stuff,  things like flower stems, a few leaves, maybe the husks from the corn on the cob that you prepared last night.  I keep a separate pile of dry yard waste and I add this as needed. IMG_6807
  • The things you throw  into the compost pile should not include oils or proteins like mayonnaise, meat or eggs.  These things make your compost pile stink, and attract mammals.
  • You get a shovel or any old thing you can find and you turn the pile every few weeks (all the while you are adding to the pile depending upon how much kitchen garbage you have).
  • Make sure the compost pile gets water from time to time; either by rain, or, if you have covered your pile, them by you wetting it down every so often.
  • Depending upon factors like sun, heat, rain and how much you’ve added and turned the pile, after a period of weeks you will begin to notice a rich, crumbly brown layer of what appears to be dirt at the bottom of your pile.  This is your finished compost.  Go spread it in the garden.

I know you have a lot of questions at this point, but I feel certain you can figure out the rest if you think about it and use some common sense.  For instance, you might ask, “Can I add all my old newspapers?”  Wow!  You read newspapers in the internet age?  I’m impressed.  If you add all those flat sheets of paper you’re going to have a hard time turning it and it’s going to mat down.  So, shred them first.  But, you could have figured that out.

Also, there are ways to finesse your pile.  These are things you’ll figure out as you go along.  Or, look it up on the internet.

Composting just kind of happens.  We do things to hasten it along and to be orderly, but non-living organic matter breaks down naturally.  When we compost kitchen scraps and yard waste, we are being mindful of how much waste we are producing and we are choosing to re-use it and turn it into something good for the garden.

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