How to Start Your Own Compost

Compost is a common word in the lawn and garden community, but some people are confused about what it is and how it works. Composting is more than throwing garbage in your garden and hoping for the best. There is a science behind composting that aids in the growth of your garden and will produce a rich harvest. Here’s how to start your own compost!

What is Composting?

Essentially, compost is the transference of nutrients from old to new. This fascinating process occurs when old yard waste or kitchen scraps are broken down and dissolved. When done correctly, you can create a rich soil full of bacteria, fungi, and worms, which is known by many as “black gold.” This precious compost is far better for your garden than anything you can buy on the shelf, meaning that the work to create your own compost is well worth it. 

The process of composting usually involves a compost bucket, which can be a plastic garbage can with holes drilled into it. This is where you will deposit certain kitchen scraps and waste items. By following a strict process, you can break down those materials over time and create a substance that contains:

  1. Carbon (C) 
  2. Nitrogen (N) 
  3. Moisture
  4. Oxygen (O2)
  5. Microorganisms

When added, these materials enrich the soil and boost the growth (and taste!) of your garden fruits and vegetables.

Benefits of Compost

Composting has many benefits, but one of the biggest benefits is that it is a natural process! Growing your own garden is one thing, keeping it organic is another. Many store-bought additives and growth accelerators can actually be harmful to the environment or your health if ingested. Grabbing something at random may not be good for you or your garden.

Composting, however, is a completely natural process that will leave you and your garden feeling great! Since composting helps retain moisture, it not only enriches your soil but will suppress plant diseases and pests. 

How to Start Your Own Compost

Starting your own compost is simple. While there are various ways you can begin, composting bins are one of the best since they keep everything enclosed together, discouraging animals from digging through your old table scraps. Additionally, compost can be an eyesore, and a bin helps keep it out of the way.

Once you’re ready to begin, follow these steps.

  1. To start, take a large plastic bin and drill holes in the bottom and sides for water drainage. 
  2. Construct a base out of straw and twigs to help provide drainage.
  3. Add compost materials by alternating layers of green and brown materials
  4. Add a source of nitrogen to begin decomposition. You can use nitrogen fertilizer or something more natural such as moldy foods
  5. Be sure to keep your compost pile moist through regular watering. It should feel wet but not drip when you pick some up.
  6. Every few weeks, you’ll need to use a shovel to turn the compost pile in the container. This keeps the pile from heating up too much in the center and provides oxygen to the microorganisms growing throughout the pile.
  7. When everything is broken down, and your pile looks like rich dark soil, you are ready to spread it throughout your garden!

What You Can and Can’t Add to Your Compost

There are several items that are quite beneficial for your compost, as well as several items you should never add. Here’s a brief list.

What You Should Add to Your Compost

  • Fruit and vegetable peels
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells 
  • Tea
  • Leaves
  • Wood 
  • Shredded paper 
  • Soiled cardboard

What you Shouldn’t Add to Your Compost

  • Animal byproducts such as dairy, bones, and meat
  • Foods rich in fat and oil
  • Feces
  • Garden waste treated with pesticides
  • Garden waste from sick plants 
  • Weeds
  • Plastic

By taking care of your compost over time and being diligent about the steps, you can create something rich and beautiful that will boost your garden and help keep things natural.

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