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How to Begin Composting

February 3, 2015

Recycling and reusing old products are logical choices when trying to be green, but what about when it comes to food? Many people don’t realize that food – and other organic products and materials – can be recycled in a compost pile. A successful compost pile will not only reduce waste production, but it will cultivate a healthy, nutrient-rich garden.

The process of composting is similar to the natural process that rots organic material. Compost piles generally consist of a slightly moist mixture of “green” and “brown” plant matter. Together, the components of the mixture break down to create a formula of beneficial bacteria, microbes, and fungi that will add nutrients to soil and help plants thrive.

Expert growers and hobby gardeners alike can enjoy the benefits of composting. The first step is to select your compost  bin. If you wish to build your own compost bin, simply enclose a space – roughly 4 ft x 4 ft . The easiest way to do this is by nailing four wooden pallets together to form a square. The bottom should be left open, and your compost materials will lay directly on the ground.

Once you have your compost bin set up, you can begin your mixture by adding natural outdoor waste, such as grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, and other dead or living plants. Another helpful practice is to keep a small bin next to the garbage can in your kitchen where you can easily dispose of fruit and vegetable remnants, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc., which can later be added to your compost bin.

You’ll need to use a pitch fork or similar tool to “stir”  your pile once every week. Mixing the compost pile keeps air flowing through it and supports the growth of good bacteria, while inhibiting the growth of mold or insects that may result from adding the wrong materials to your compost. A good rule of thumb is to move the inner most compost to the outside. Try to break up any chunks when turning your mixture, and add wet or dry materials accordingly if your mixture seems too moist or dry.

A compost mixture can be ready for use in your garden in a few months, depending on what materials you add to the mixture and how it is managed. When the ingredients in your compost are no longer recognizable, and the pile looks and smells like soil, it’s ready to use. Compost can be used like potting soil. To achieve a finer mixture, run the compost mixture through a sifter to remove bigger pieces of hay and twigs that haven’t broken down.

Composting is an excellent way to add nutrients and improve the fertility of your soil. Enhancing your garden with a composted mixture will help it reach full growing potential.

Solar's Compost Bin