One of our favorite ways to recycle and save a bit of money too is to compost. It’s the gift that gives and gives. You can use so many things that would otherwise just go straight into the garbage into a magic recipe for your garden.
Many people say ‘I don’t compost’ because it’s too messy or it’s too much work– and we say it doesn’t have to be!
Before you start, recognize that there are two types of composting: cold and hot. Cold composting is as simple as collecting yard waste or taking out the organic materials in your trash (such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells) and then collecting them in a pile or bin. Over the course of a year or so, the material will decompose.
Hot composting is for the more serious gardener but a faster process—you’ll get compost in one to three months during warm weather. Four ingredients are required for fast-cooking hot compost: nitrogen, carbon, air, and water. Together, these items feed microorganisms, which speed up the process of decay.
Items for your compost pile:
- Fruit scraps
- Vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Grass and plant clippings
- Dry leaves
- Finely chopped wood and bark chips
- Shredded newspaper
- Sawdust from untreated wood
Tip: Avoid onion and garlic scraps as they repel earthworms that help your garden.
Items That Shouldn’t Be Composted:
- Anything containing meat, oil, fat, or grease
- Sawdust or chips from pressure-treated wood
- Dog or cat waste
- Weeds that go to seed
- Dairy products
Step 1: Combine Green and Brown Materials
To make your own hot-compost heap, wait until you have enough materials to make a pile at least 3 feet deep. You are going to want to combine your wet, green items with your dry, brown items. “Brown” materials include dried plant materials; fallen leaves; shredded tree branches, cardboard, or newspaper; hay or straw; and wood shavings, which add carbon. “Green” materials include kitchen scraps and coffee grounds, animal manures, and fresh plant and grass trimmings, which add nitrogen. For best results, start building your compost pile by mixing three parts brown with one part green materials. If your compost pile looks too wet and smells, add more brown items or aerate more often. If you see it looks extremely brown and dry, add green items and water to make it slightly moist.
Step 2: Water Your Pile
Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge. Don’t add too much water, otherwise, the microorganisms in your pile will become waterlogged and drown. If this happens, your pile will rot instead of compost. Monitor the temperature of your pile with a thermometer to be sure the materials are properly decomposing. Or, simply reach into the middle of the pile with your hand. Your compost pile should feel warm.
Step 3: Stir Up Your Pile
During the growing season, you should provide the pile with oxygen by turning it once a week with a garden fork. The best time to turn the compost is when the center of the pile feels warm or when a thermometer reads between 130 and 150 degrees F. Stirring up the pile will help it cook faster and prevents material from becoming matted down and developing an odor. At this point, the layers have served their purpose of creating equal amounts of green and brown materials throughout the pile, so stir thoroughly.
Step 4: Feed Your Garden
When the compost no longer gives off heat and becomes dry, brown, and crumbly, it’s fully cooked and ready to feed to the garden. Add about 4 to 6 inches of compost to your flower beds and into your pots at the beginning of each planting season.
Some gardeners make what’s known as compost tea with some of their finished compost. This involves allowing fully formed compost to “steep” in water for several days, then straining it to use as a homemade liquid fertilizer.
Every gardener is different, so it’s up to you to decide which composting method best fits your lifestyle. Fortunately, no matter which route you choose, compost is incredibly easy and environmentally friendly. Plus, it’s a treat for your garden. With just a few kitchen scraps and some patience, you’ll have the happiest garden possible.
For even more gardening tips and advice try The Carolinas Gardners Handbook:
Carolinas Gardener’s Handbook
Information gathered from www.bhg.com