Composting does not have to be a big deal. It can really be quite simple! Of course, if you want to go all out you can, but I want to show you the easiest way to get started composting.
The best time to begin a compost pile is in the fall when all the leaves have started to drop. This gives you plenty of materials to get started with.
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You will need something to contain your pile. Some people use pallets, or bales of straw to build a box shaped holder. I have used homemade wire tomato cages in the past. Now I use some fence panels that we have on hand, similar to this one.
I use 4 fence panels creating a cage for my compost materials.
If you are using straw bales, set them up in a square leaving a good size area in the middle to hold your composting materials. If you are using pallets, stand them up to form walls leaving an open box shape in the center. If you are using a wire tomato cage just set it up where you want to make your compost. Since they are smaller I used two, side by side and would transfer my composting material from one to the other at least once a month.
Once your compost “bin” is set up, put a layer of leaves in the bottom.
Your composting materials should be put in alternating layers. The fallen leaves are a brown (dry) layer, so next you need a green layer. This will be grass clippings and kitchen scraps.
I had some mushrooms that had started to get slimy, some spinach that was rotting, a couple of tea bags that I tore open to release the tea leaves and some coffee grounds that I brought home from work.
- Do NOT include any meat, bones, or grease in your kitchen scraps for composting.
- DO include egg shells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings.
- Crush egg shells for faster decomposition.
- After adding a layer of kitchen scraps, I find that there is NO smell, or bug problem if I always finish with a layer of leaves on top.
- Whenever you are going to reuse a flowerpot but are using new potting soil, dump the old soil into your compost pile.
- If you have a firepit, or a fireplace inside your house, add the ashes to your compost pile. Make sure the ashes have completely cooled. (Just trust me on this. Adding them the next day, is NOT cool enough.)
- Wet down your compost pile during drought conditions.
- Speed up the breaking down of your compost ingredients by purchasing compost starter or compost accelerator and adding it to your pile as per the directions.
I have one of these pretty kitchen compost bins to hold my kitchen scraps, but, I find it much easier just to reuse the styrofoam container from the grocery store that held mushrooms or ground beef. I wash it out before using it and after each use and then when it gets worn out I throw it away and use a new one.
Continue to alternate layers over the course of a year and then the next fall, it is time to start a second pile, while letting the first one continue to cook until spring planting time. Whenever you begin spring planting preparation, you will have a whole pile of wonderful compost to enhance your gardens.
Now my way is not the quickest way to compost! As you can see it takes a full year before you can begin to use your compost. If you want faster results you can speed up the process by regularly turning your compost. Think of it as stirring a pot of soup that you have cooking on the stove. The best way to do that is just to build two “piles” with your fence, filling one with your materials and using the empty one to turn your cooking compost into. Just shovel the ingredients from one “pile” to the other about once a week. This allows for more even and faster cooking of your compost.
If you want less work but faster composting, you can also purchase a composter which has a turning handle on it to mix your ingredients easier.
Another easy way to compost is to “trench compost.” This method does not require a pile and so no fence or box or barrel is needed to hold the compost ingredients. Instead, you dig a trench directly in your garden at least 6 inches deep and fill the trench with your ingredients and cover with the soil that you dug out. This is direct composting and is totally cost free!
I like using what I have to make compost. And its free.
Get your FREE printable Composting Guide below.