Compost is wonderful! It works for anyone, no matter where you live, and only needs a small outdoor area to mature. You can do it! You know you’ve always wanted to try it but got overwhelmed with knowing how to start it, where to keep it, and when to do what to it.
COMPOST MADE EASY
1. What goes into compost?
- “Green Material”: Basically, any uncooked kitchen vegetable scraps that have not touched meat juices can go into your pile. You can even place eggshells that are rinsed well. If you have a large compost pile you can add grass clippings. Having meat products in a compost pile attracts pests and can harbor disease when rotting. We want our compost to BREAK DOWN, not mold, rot, and stink. A good compost pile NEVER stinks.
- “Brown Material”: You can use dry brown leaves, shredded paper from your office, or newspaper. The brown material helps the compost stay moist but NOT WET. If your pile does start to stink, it’s usually because the pile is too wet. Add more brown.
- Dirt: Add some dirt. You are adding very LITTLE dirt to your pile, but it contains some microorganisms that will help break down the green and brown materials.
- Sunshine: Direct sunlight on your compost pile is essential. The sunlight heats up the ingredients and helps the mixture break down. If your pile starts to mold, it’s usually because the pile is not warm enough or needs turned. Stir it up and give it some sun!
2. What supplies do I need?
- A clean food-safe container to hold kitchen scraps. I used a pretzel container, but an ice cream bucket works really well. Don’t keep the lid on, you don’t want it to start rotting in the kitchen!
- Small house/Apartment: A 5 gallon bucket with LID for the compost. This is small enough to fit on your patio and small enough to roll around for mixing. Once you get the hang of it, you can add a second bucket when the first gets full.
- Large house/Small house: A plastic garbage(preferably black) can with LID for the compost. Because this is larger than a bucket, you will need a shovel or pitchfork to mix ingredients.
- Extreme composters: An area in the yard separated into three large sub-areas. One is for new compost, one is for a year old mixture, the last is compost that is ready to be used in the yard. Just rotate the areas each year.
3. How do I put it all together? (Instructions for small pile/bucket)
- Take your bucket and poke some holes in the bottom with a nail and hammer (about 1-15).
- If you don’t have a black bucket, paint the outside black or a dark color. This helps the compost heat up.
- Add green, brown, dirt, green, brown, dirt. Repeat.
- Place your bucket on a few bricks or on a patio in a sunny area. The bucket will need to drain, but there is not too much liquid that comes out.
- Roll your bucket once a day or whenever you add new scraps.
- When you add new kitchen scraps (green), don’t forget to add some brown and some dirt.
- YOUR COMPOST IS READY when it resembles a coarse dirt mixture. Pieces are no larger than the size of a penny.
- USE YOUR COMPOST mixed with soil to make your own nutrient-rich potting mix, or on top of soil after planting (instead of mulch). It is as rich as fertilizer!
Benefits of Compost
Collecting kitchen scraps keeps your kitchen garbage from smelling before it is full. Compost itself is cheap or free because your ingredients are usually readily available, and are more natural than store-bought fertilizers or growth enhancers.
Here are some links to additional pictures and how-tos if you want more detailed information on composting!
- Cornell University Composting Pamphlet (PDF)
- North Brooklyn Compost Project
- Garbage can compost bin at Hardtobeet.com