Easy Composting- Let’s Get Started!
Contribution from: Mary Lou Lacey – NRCS Soil Conservationist
Interested in composting, but worried it may be difficult to start? Have no fear, because picking up this sustainable practice is easier than one may imagine. Even without a sizeable yard, a person can compost through finding a small corner (about 3’ by 3’ by 3’) outside. They just need to make sure to consider that compost may have an odor when selecting the location, along with making sure it is a spot that animals cannot easily access.
Then, it is time to make the decision between purchasing a composter or making a pile, and then collect the materials necessary to create the compost. A source of wood shavings (cut up sticks, small branches, or untreated wood chips) will be needed for the base of the pile. Next, a stockpile of “browns”, which are high in carbon, should be collected. People often use last year’s dry leaves, old newspapers, sawdust, or hay. A stockpile of “greens”, which are high in nitrogen, are also important. These are items such as kitchen scraps, grass clippings, old garden materials, and manure. If you have any horse friends, they will likely be happy to give you some (just be prepared to haul your own).
Once the materials are gathered, create a base of wood shavings about eight inches in depth to allow air to flow. Layer browns and greens on top of this base and continue to layer until your stockpiles are used up. Once the pile is created, add water as needed so that it appears moist overall. The organisms that break down your compost pile need food, air, and water, so proper maintenance should be observed. Individuals can “passively compost” which takes more time, or turn the pile every few weeks (using a pitchfork or shovel) to get air back in to invigorate the process. Additional scraps can be, and are encouraged to be, placed in the pile.
It is important to avoid all dairy products, any type of meat scraps, fats, oils, and pet waste when composting. Egg shells, paper napkins, and other bio-degradable items can be composted. Even items like coffee K-cups are partially compostable through pulling out the coffee or tea along with the paper filters, and placing that outside. Many items that go in the trash can be composted through following these guidelines, creating organic soil that is sure to leave plants looking lusher. So, whose ready to go?
Picture from: Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)