Looking for a sustainable way to make the world better while making your food better? Compost is the answer you’ve been looking for. It’s much more sustainable to grow your own fruits and veggies, and when you know where your food comes from, you know you can trust it. Making and using compost can help reduce food waste and reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Win-win!
Check out our top five tips to make your compost the best it can be all year long.
1. Start in Early Spring!
You can start with an indoor compost bin, which you can find at most major home improvement stores, or a closed outdoor bin. If you decide to go with an outdoor bin, make sure that your bin has a good drainage system. While some water is important to help break down the solids, you don’t want your mix in standing water, as it may rot instead of break down.
Starting in the spring allows the rising temperatures to assist the microbes in breaking down the organic materials. The summer heat does the same. Don’t forget to stir!
2. Use the right Colors!
Green materials consist of veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, animal manure, tea leaves, and grass clippings! Egg shells are also an excellent addition, and do technically fall into the green category, even though they’re typically brown or white.
Brown materials include other yard waste, like dried leaves, weeds and twigs, wood chips, straw, newspaper, and brown paper bags. Be sure to break down or shred things like large twigs, newspaper and paper bags to ensure they break down quicker.
Don’t forget the water! Your compost should look moist but not overly wet, think the consistency of a sponge you’ve squeezed all the moisture out of.
3. Give it a Mix!
It’s the carbon rich brown materials mixing with the nitrate dense green materials, combined with natural heat and water that end up giving you a rich, healthy compost, which will make your garden thrive!
To ensure the best results, be sure to layer your greens and browns evenly and give the pile an occasional mix, to make sure all the materials are combining and heating evenly. Too many greens will give you a smelly sludge instead of a nice compost, where too many browns will take a long time (potentially years) to break down.
Keep adding more greens and browns evenly and mixing to keep your compost growing.
4. Enjoy a Low Maintenance Winter!
Once summer winds down, don’t be afraid to add those dry leaves, flowers, even dead plants from the garden, to keep your compost going.
Keep a bag full of your yard clipping and dried leaves by your compost pile, and as you layer in household scraps over the winter, add in some of your reserved brown materials to keep the composting going strong!
5. What Not to Compost!
You already know a lot of great things to compost, but it's important to know that your compost pile does not take the place of your trash can. You do not want to put any seeds in your compost, because if your compost starts growing its own products, its wasting the nutrients you want to use in your garden!
Beware of fruit skins that have been treated with pesticides, they can also hurt your compost pile. A great rule of thumb is to use only organic ingredients for your compost pile.
You also want to stay away from cooked foods and animal products. These will go rancid and may even attract unwanted animals to your compost pile. This includes meat, animal fats and dairy. They can add pathogens to your compost, and even the heat from the composting materials might not make it safe.
Lastly, do not add any pet waste to your compost pile. While animal manure is safe, Fido’s little present on the living room carpet is not!
It’s Done! Now What?
Depending on the size of your compost pile, you can have usable compost in as little as a month, though some piles can take up to a year to fully compost. When your compost is ready, it will look like brown, rich dirt. If you can still see bits of eggshell, veggie matter or twigs, pull them out and place them back on the pile, they’re not ready yet.
Use your finished compost by spreading it around your plants, or if you haven’t planted yet, mix your compost lightly with the topsoil to give your plants extra nutrients. Enjoy your farm fresh fruit and veggies all season long!