10 Composting Basics for beginners & for homeowners step by step
The composting basics can be broken down into 10 easy steps.
1. Choose a Wise Location
Choose an open level area that will be readily accessible from the exit closest to your kitchen. Although outdoor waste will be added to your compost, more food waste is produced and usually on a daily basis. Most kitchen’s will have close access to the backyard door, however a side door may be the better option, especially if you have a dog or other backyard animal who may want to use the compost as a place to do their business.
2. Build or Buy a Compost Bin
It is not absolutely necessary to buy a bin for composting. Some enjoy a bin’s ability to harness odour and aesthetic appeal however an open heaping pile of compost can work just as well. But do not have the pile leaning on the house or fence because the compost will work it’s eroding magic on these as well as the scraps you throw in it. It is also easy to build a structure around the compost pile out of recycled materials if needed.
3. Prepare Compost Area
The soil in the spot chosen for the compost pile must be worked in. Using a garden shovel or fork you should churn the soil to loosen it up. This allows for earthworms that will help aerate the compost pile and speed up the composting process. After churning, dampen the soil slightly with water.
4. Add First Layer
The foundation of your compost should be all brown organic materials. Some would include small branches, dry weeds, veggie stalks, extra wood chips, dry dead leaves etc. It should be about 15cm thick.
5. Add Green Layer
This nitrogen layer will decompose quickly and is usually a thin layer depending on what is available at the time. Green materials like fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings, freshly pulled weeds or plant cuttings, and manure (if not using compost for a food garden). This layer should not get too thick, no more than 15 cm.
6. Add Soil
It’s important to add soil after the green layer because it eliminates the foul odour from the decomposing greens. It is also important to use the soil from the garden you plan on composting. This will add the native soil’s microorganisms to the compost and help improve the soil that will be utilized in the garden. Only use enough soil to cover the green layer, and dampen when finished.
7. Add Dry Layer
The dry layer would be much like the foundation of the compost, however now you are adding other recycled materials as well. Items such as cardboard, egg shells, straw, hay, paper towels, paper bags, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg boxes or drink trays, leaves, sawdust, ect. Of course, only what is available at the time for recycling.
8. Repeat Steps 5-7 as materials accumulate.
Using the compressed layer process will save time and maintenance as no turning or mixing will be needed. However turning does speed up the decomposition process by adding oxygen. Turning too often can decrease microorganism growth. Once every couple months would be sufficient if you need to mix it at all.
9. Water Maintenance
Always check the level of moisture inside the compost. Water is needed because a compost is essentially a living organism. Moisture should be compared to a damp clothe, not too wet and not dry. It may be a good idea to cover the pile with a tarp to protect it from rain but also keep it’s own moisture in. If the compost does get unreasonably soaked, add a hefty amount of dry brown materials with some greens and mix well.
10. Put Compost to Use
After about a year of decomposition and at the beginning of the growing season, add about 5cm of compost right on top of the garden to be used. If using a freestanding pile of compost, it may be ready within a few short months. It can be worked right into the soil which is great for sowing or seedlings, or it can be used as mulch around existing perennials. Container plants will also benefit from adding compost to the existing soil and sand mix. -KATIE FLYNN