A finished compost pile provides free, mild and chemical free fertilizer for your plants and garden. The compost, once fully broke down and added to your soil, will provide better drainage for your plants as well as improve the general balance and texture of the soil.
Composting is a green way to literally turn trash into treasure. Those table scraps, grass clippings and piles of leaves all get added to your compost pile instead of being bagged up and sent to a landfill.
Do: Get a Compost Bin
There are 100’s of excellent DIY compost bin ideas around the internet. Find one you like and get started as soon as possible. My first compost bin was made from pallets. 4 pallets held together with bailing wire and it’s still standing and currently full of composting materials!
Do: Compost the Right Materials
All organic material is made up of carbon and nitrogen. They key to maintaining an efficient (and less smelly) compost pile is to have the correct carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N Ratio). The general rule of thumb is that you want to keep 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen in your compost bin. Materials containing high amounts of carbon are considered “brown” material while materials with high amounts of nitrogen are often called “green” materials.
If the C:N Ratio is too high (excess Carbon) materials in your compost bin will take forever to break down. If the C:N Ratio is too low (excess Nitrogen) your compost bin will stink. A lot. If you want to play it safe simply use a 2:1 (green:brown) ratio of materials in your pile. This should put your C:N Ratio somewhere around 30-50:1 and give you a good “warm” base to start.
Examples of “green” materials are food scraps, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and fresh grass clippings.
Examples of “brown” materials are leaves, shredded straw or hay, sawdust and wood chips and twigs (nothing to big).
Thanks to Dr. C. Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell over at Home Composting Made Easy for making this easy (easier?) for me to grasp when I was getting started composting.
Don’t: Compost the Wrong Materials
Never add certain materials to your pile. Dairy products, pet waste, meats (or bone), grease, lard, oils and fats are all a big no-no. Not only do these materials not compost well they can produce foul odors, attract pests and contain harmful/toxic ingredients.
Do: Make Composting a Daily “Chore”
I use the term “chore” very lightly in the above heading. Let’s be honest, humans (and homesteaders in general) are creatures of habit. We have routines, chores and things that have to be done on a daily basis. Ask yourself this: How hard is it to keep a small container in your kitchen for table scraps and make a once-daily trip to the compost bin? Are you willing to rake up grass clippings and leaves and add them to your compost bin instead of bagging them for the local garbage man? Are you willing to learn a little bit about organic materials, how they break down and lower your carbon footprint in the process? If you answered YES to these questions. You are ready to add composting to your list of daily chores!
Don’t: Overcomplicate Things
While there are a few things that will make your composting a more pleasant and more efficient experience you can’t really fail. The materials you put in your compost bin will compost over time. Add your greens, add your browns and be patient. Composting takes time but the end result is well worth the wait!