6 Steps for Beginning Composting


Pole Between Two Hay Bales 

So you want to compost but have no idea where to begin? You are already halfway there. Making the decision to take on the task is the first and biggest step of the process.

Siting a compost setup. The first thing you need to do is decide where you will do your composting. There are many options for this: You can build a three- or four-sided bin or buy one from your local farm and garden store. You can also find many simple DIY plans on the web that use items such as plastic totes or barrels with drainage holes drilled into the sides — here’s one using pallets (with video). It’s best to start small and expand your composting operation as you grow in skill. Two things that are necessity are drainage and air flow, both essential to the compost process.

Brown vs. green content. Now you have a bin and are ready to start composting! The materials you will be using fall into two categories, nitrogen-rich greens and carbon-rich browns. You will need to keep the material inside your bin about 2/3 browns and 1/3 greens. Browns are dry, brown material such as cardboard, straw, hay, dry leaves, pine needles (used sparingly as they are acidic), saw dust, peat moss, wood shavings, corn shucks, and other similar natural material and non-shiny paper scraps. Your greens will consist of fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, weeds and grass clippings that have not seeded, egg shells, dried manure, and other similar organic items.

What to avoid. You should not include the following items in your compost bin: table scraps other than organic material, seeds from fruits or vegetables (they will germinate in your compost pile), yard clippings where domestic pets are kept or pesticides are used, or glossy or waxy paper products.

Feel free to toss in leftover or used planting materials, like coconut fiber liners used in wire baskets, or used or extra potting soil. You can also add worms to speed up the whole process. You can order worms from companies online or buy them in stores that sell live fishing bait. My preferred method is to grab a handful when I find them around my yard under a rock or log and just toss them in and let them work their magic!

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