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Home » Organic Gardening

Composting The Easy Way!

Submitted by on August 21, 2009 – 2:26 pm 9 Comments
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composting

I’ve been wanting to start composting for a long time now, but it has always seemed so difficult to me. After reading tons of stuff online and in gardening books on how to compost, I was left with more questions than answers. Would I ever figure out how to get “the perfect nitrogen to carbon ratio”? Did it really have to be so complicated?

Finally, I’ve come to an understanding of composting that is simple enough for even me to wrap my head around. Here’s all you need to know to get your compost pile going:

Location: Find a place close to your garden to start your compost pile. I’d suggest a place you can reach with your garden hose, since you’ll be needing to water your pile if you live in an extremely dry climate. Having your compost close to your garden is also a convenient way to access that black gold when you need it.

Structure: There are several different structures you can use to contain your compost, ranging from expensive manufactured barrels, to a simple homemade box, to simply throwing everything into a pile on the ground. Do a little researching and decide which kind would be right for you.

Whatever your structure is, if it’s on the ground it needs to be straight on the dirt. This will allow worms to enter the pile, along with other beneficial organisms that you will need to help with the decomposition.

Ingredients: This is the part that always caused my procrastination, but honestly the following method is super simple to follow!

You need two basic groups of materials: Greens and Browns.

Greens: Kitchen scraps*, fresh lawn clippings (from untreated grass), garden waste, small shrub trimmings, and livestock manure.

*Kitchen scraps you can compost are: uncooked fruits and veggies, coffee grounds, tea bags, nut shells, and egg shells.

Browns: Wood chips, small sticks, bark, leaves, newspaper (not the glossy, colored sheets), untreated cardboard, sawdust, straw, pine needles, and corn stalks.

Method: Here it is, don’t worry so much about obtaining a perfect C:N ratio. If you use the ingredients listed above, it’s going to decompose and become good compost. Just try not to pile up mostly Green or Brown to the exclusion of the other. Keep it pretty balanced.

  • Start your compost pile with layers. The first layer should be small sticks or mulch, something Brown that will allow air to circulate around the bottom of the pile.
  • Cover your sticks with a thin layer of soil. You need the microorganisms in it as a starter to begin the breaking down process.
  • Next add some greens. Not too thick though, just a couple of inches worth. If it’s too thick it will only get slimy and gross and will not circulate the air well.

I made that last mistake right off the bat. My dad had just mowed his huge yard and I asked if I could have the grass clippings for my compost. My husband loaded up two pick-up truckloads full for me. My thinking was, the more the better! Turns out, piling up two truckloads of grass clippings into a huge heap and stomping it down into the bin was a bad idea. That mess wasn’t going to decompose into compost any time soon! As a matter of fact, it quickly turned into a nasty pile of sludge. I had to shovel all of that wet grass out and start fresh with the ‘brown’ and ‘green’ layers.

  • Top it off with another thin layer of soil. Repeat these layers. Once you have your first four layers, simply continue in this order: Brown, Soil, Green, Soil.
  • If you live in an extremely dry climate, and your compost is NEVER moist, you’ll need to water your pile every now and then. Don’t soak it or it will get gross. But if it sits completely dry for a long period of time, it won’t break down very quickly.

Turn the pile over every so often to help speed up the decomposition process. You can use a pitch fork to kinda mix up the contents of your compost, or you can totally flip everything over into another pile, so that the bottom layers are now on top.

I’ve just started my compost pile, so it isn’t even close to being usable yet, but I am excited at the idea of having some great stuff to spread on my garden next spring! And finally I am confident enough to try.

Here are a couple of resources that I found extremely helpful:

Mother Earth News: Compost Made Easy

YouTube: How To Make Compost

Hopefully this has helped you to have a better understanding of how to compost, without all of the technical chemistry of it!

If you’ve been composting for a while and have any tips to add to this, I’d be grateful for any advice you can share! Happy Composting!

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9 Comments »

  • Matt says:

    I’ve been composting for a number of years. Both my neighbors rake / mow their leaves and toss them into my compost pit in the fall. It’s made of hurricane fence, about 8′ x 8′ x 4′. We fill it to the top in the fall and I let it mold, then freeze, then mold again in the spring. Starting in the spring, I dig to the ground on one side and start mixing in grass clippings (mine and theirs) with layers of leaves. By the fall (if we get enough rain and grass clippings), I spread it on my lawn or in the gardens and start the process over again.

  • Robert says:

    Hi Kendra,
    Greetings from Ireland.

    Human pee is THE best activator for your compost. It introduces loads of healthy, active bacteria and actually helps to keep smells down and to speed up the process.

    I have had a 3-bin system for years: Bin 1 receives all fresh material and begins the process. When it’s still full to the brim, after a week (you’ll notice how it shrinks), I skim off the top quarter and turn the lot into bin 2. I leave this for a couple of months and then fork it into bin 3 for storage & use. By this time bin 1 is usually full … again away to go again. The turning from bin to bin helps to get air through it and stops gungy blobs forming.

    By the way, I never worry about brown / green. Just mix it up as much as possible. But do read up about what NOT to add. rj

  • Katie says:

    This will make you laugh! We live in bear country and those critters kept getting into our compost pile. Then I read if the man of the house pees on or near the pile, the bears will leave it alone. It seems to work, we’ve had a successful compost going now, and no bears are interested. Sort of like marking the territory!

  • Jen says:

    We’ve had a compost pile for 3 years now. We took the REALLY easy route, and started throwing stuff on the ground. No effort to balance anything. I throw all produce trimmings from the kitchen, egg shells and coffe grounds on it. My husband throws leaves, small branches, weeds etc. from the yard. We don’t use any particular order or layers, we just toss stuff as it becomes available. We rarely water it, and turn it about 2-3 times in the summer.

    Let me just say that pile is black gold!!! It’s filled with worms, and does not stink at all. The rich compost we dig out from the bottom in the spring and fall does wonders for our garden beds. It’s really easy, and so worth it. No need to overthink it, just go for it. 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    I’m planning on starting a compost pile soon, too, so this info was timely. I have been doing lots of research. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Hannah says:

    I started a compost pile this year too!
    I haven’t had any problems so far…no stink…which is a really good thing!
    I just added a TON to it today as I did a bunch of freezing of garden veggies! YAY compost! YAY veggies in the freezer!
    Thanks for the great post today!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Julie says:

    This was very informative for me. I’ve been totally confused and gave up the idea of trying composting. After reading this, who knows…maybe I’ll give it a try 🙂

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