Compost on your mind? Want to eliminate your waste and help the environment? Well lucky for you, we are here to help you start your compost! We have some tips and tricks to help you create sustainable fertilizer for your garden. Compostable food waste is currently making up over 30% of what we throw away! By saving and utilizing these compostable materials we can save space in landfills and eliminate some of the methane that is being released into the atmosphere.
If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of compost, it is decomposed organic materials (such as fruits, vegetables, and paper) that can be added to the soil and help plants grow. This organic material can help these plants grow by enriching the soil through five key components; carbon, nitrogen, moisture, oxygen, and microorganisms. The soil will be able to retain moisture much better and the added compost reduces the need for chemical pesticides as it suppresses diseases and unwanted pests.
Types of Compost
There are different methods to starting your compost and require a different amount of cost and difficulty. Here is a list of different composting methods you can practice in your backyard!
Piling: Just as the name suggests. Piling organic material in a designated area and turning periodically to allow oxygen into the matter.
Compost Bins: These bins come in two varieties; open and closed. An open bin allows for easier aeration and keeps the material compiled together with easy access to add and turn the compost. Enclosed bins are closed via lid and this allows the avoidance of smell and can create a better aesthetic.
Tumblers: Very similar to an enclosed bin, this particular bin has handles installed to create an easier "tumbling" or turning of composted materials.
Vermicomposting: Better known as worm composting. This method relies heavily on Red Wiggler worms to break down the material. This is usually done in a specific bin used for this type of composition and is typically used for your average kitchen food waste instead of garden and yard waste.
You are also able to compost indoors if you do not have the appropriate space outdoors. When composting indoors, it is important to be able to keep track of what you are putting in your bin and to regularly turn and moisten the waste. Local hardware stores typically carry indoor composting bins but are something you would be able to build on your own as well.
Building Your Compost
When deciding to build or set up your new compost pile, it is important to stay mindful of your space and where your compost is going to thrive most. You should try selecting an area for your compost that is near a water source and can be shaded. This is because ensuring moisture in your compost is very important when trying to decompose our food waste.
Here are some of our tips for starting your compost:
Select your area. Try to keep near a water source and some shade to best retain moisture.
Add a base layer. This can be typically be used with twigs or straw and allows for appropriate drainage to start composting.
Add your materials. Layer your waste on top of the base layer. Once this begins to pile up, you can incorporate grass clippings and weeds in with the waste. Try to break up your materials into pieces rather than larger chunks, this will speed up the decomposition process.
Incorporate moisture. It is important to keep your compost pile wet. You do not want to soak the compost, but keep it damp enough to hold moisture. Try to add water as you are adding materials into your pile.
Turn your compost! Every week or two try to turn and mix your compost to aerate and heat the decomposition process of your waste. This will allow the Nitrogen to enrich your compost and create a more nutrient-dense medium for growing your plants. You will know that your compost is performing well when you notice a lot of worms or if there is steam coming from your compost pile.
Some prefer to cover the top of their compost with a tarp to keep the moisture from escaping. This is not required but would decrease the amount of water you have to add in moisture (Just don't forget to uncover it if it rains!). For ready-to-use compost, it can take anywhere from two months to two years before it is ready to be added to your garden. You will know when your compost is ready when the materials at the bottom of your pile are dark and rich in color.
Do's and Don't
All compost bins/piles should contain similar ingredients:
Brown matter- These materials would include things such as twigs and dead leaves. This allows a source of carbon to your compost.
Green matter- This would include materials like weeds, food scraps, vegetable waste, and coffee grounds. Adding this type of material is creating a source of nitrogen for your compost.
Water- This is important for the finalization of your compost. By adding moisture, the compost can decompose at a more efficient rate.
It is just as important to know what NOT to put into your compost as it is knowing what you should. Certain wastes can carry diseases, pests, and bacteria that are harmful to both plants and people. Here is a list of things you should NOT compost:
Black walnut tree twigs or leaves- releases a substance that may be harmful to plants
Coal/Charcoal Ash- might contain substances harmful to plants
Dairy products and eggs- create odor problems and attracts pests and flies
Diseased or insect ridden plants- disease/insect might survive and transfer to other plants
Yard trimming treated with chemical pesticides- might kill beneficial composting organisms
Here is a list of possible waste you can include in your compost:
Fruits and vegetables
Coffee/tea grounds and filters
Compost With Us!
We are all about compost here at Community Roots! Thanks to our volunteers and friendly neighbors, we were able to install a new compost bin this summer to allow us to be able to keep up with our compost capacity. Once transferred into the new bins, we discovered some of the most beautiful compost we have ever seen! We call it our Black Gold.
Community Roots is currently in search of volunteers interested in helping us manage our compost pick up and maintaining the compost in our bins. We currently are partnered with Happy Bean Coffee Shop and Williams Flowers and Wine by utilizing their leftover coffee grounds and flower waste to be added to our compost through a volunteer-led transfer program. If being involved in our composting projects is something that interests you feel free to contact us via email: email@example.com or visit our sign-up.
"To turn ordinary clothes into gardening clothes, simply mix with compost" -Author, Guy Browning