Americans are reported to generate 210 million tons of trash each year, and over half of that goes into commercial landfills. Composting is a way to turn organic waste material into a product that can be safely stored, used and given back to the environment, whether in a garden or simply as a rich top soil. To get started on this fantastic home recycling program, follow the steps here.
1. Start your compost pile on bare earth.
This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds. Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
2. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry.
Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.
3. Add manure, green manure (clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
4. Keep compost moist.
Water occasionally, or let rain do the job. Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.
Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This aerates the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. You can skip this step if you have a ready supply of coarse material, like straw.
Things that are acceptable for your compost include: egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds, any fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, leaves, nut shells and grains.
Things which should not be put in a compost bin: meats and fish, cheeses, other dairy products, fats or other oils and greases, pet droppings, or items from your garden which have pests or other diseases.
For a bigger list on what you can and can’t put in a compost bin, check out the EPA’s list by clicking HERE.