Composting is one of those side habits of gardening that is rising in popularity. Urban farmers are popping up everywhere, and compost piles are part of this new culture. I’ll be honest. I’m not a dig in the dirt willingly kind of gal. I’m more of a book person. But, composting has grown on me. Mostly because of the simple science behind it, and how eco-friendly it is.
So what are the purposes and benefits of composting? The biggest is a reduction in municipal waste. The average household garbage contains at least 30% of compostable materials like fruit and vegetable scraps, paper, cardboard, grass clippings, dry leaves and more. Some cities now have municipal composting centers, but most don’t. Another benefit is to create healthy soil that keeps your plants happy. And composting piles create soil much faster than the earth can.
We have a pretty easy set up. Our composting system starts with a small container under our sink. As we prep fruits and vegetables, we scrape the trimmings into the container. Egg shells, coffee grounds, and anything else that can be composted gets put into the container. We empty it daily, into a much larger covered bucket on our deck. We fill that up with paper, cardboard, food, and everything else. It’s big enough to hold a week’s worth of composted items. It gets emptied into our final compost pile each week.
However, composting can be overwhelming to beginner gardeners. Because I’ve been overwhelmed, and because I love simplified bullet lists, here’s a quick guide to creating your own compost pile:
- A little bit of ground
- Composting materials
- Pitchfork or shovel
- Ratio of 25 (Carbon) : 1 (Nitrogen)
- Carbon (mostly brown) – dried leaves, paper, straw, sticks, wood chips, shredded cardboard, pine needles, fruit.
- Nitrogen (mostly green) – grass, vegetables, coffee grounds.
- Oxygen – provided by keeping the compost fluffy and turned.
- Build a 3″ square pile of carbon and nitrogen materials. You can get fancy and create layers, or just pile it on as you empty your garbage. Whatever works.
- Turn with a pitchfork or shovel every other day or so.
- Troubleshoot as needed.
As you get more comfortable with composting, you can create a nicer compost bin like the one pictured above. You can also introduce worms. They’re happy little creatures that break down compost like turbo charged lettuce destroyers.
- Ignore those pretty little compost bins unless they are used under the sink to collect kitchen scraps. Every compost expert agrees that you need a pile at least 3″ wide x 3″ tall x 3″ deep. Anything less than this won’t get hot enough create compost.
- If your pile stinks, you have too much nitrogen. Add a lot more dry.
- If your pile isn’t decomposing, it’s either too small or you have too much carbon. Make it bigger and add nitrogen materials.