Compost is amazing on so many levels. Not only is it a nutrient-rich soil amendment that your plants will love, but it also drastically cuts down on your waste. It’s a win-win! I’ll walk you through how you can start composting today, at home, for $3 or less.
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First, we’ll cover some basic concepts of composting, to make sure you’re successful, and then we’ll cover how you can get started with your own composting system.
The Basics of Composting
The key to compost is to have a good mix of browns and greens. Add a little water, with some occasional mixing for airflow and you’ll be good to go!
Things that qualify as Browns are:
- Dried, brown leaves
- Shredded paper (like junk mail)
- Paper towels or napkins
- Cardboard torn into small pieces
- Sawdust or wood shavings
Things that qualify as Greens are:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Fresh plant trimmings
- Livestock manure (rabbit, chicken, goat, cow, horse)
Things to avoid:
- Meat or dairy products
- Invasive weeds
- Evergreen leaves or needles
- Bread products
- Branches bigger around than your thumb or longer than your hand
- Animal waste (dog, cat, rodent, exotic bird)
The key is balance. If you end up with too many browns in your compost, it won’t start cooking and it could take forever for you to get working compost to spread in your garden. On the flip side, if you get too many greens, you’ll end up with a slimy, smelly mess.
Make sure you get a good mix of the two, ideally layering them. Once you have a good base going, you want to make sure your compost pile is slightly damp.
The last thing to remember is that you’ll occasionally need to turn or mix your compost because exposure to air helps everything breakdown.
As an example, with our large compost pile, we layer small sticks, dried leaves, and torn up cardboard boxes, with fresh plant trimmings and food scraps. Then we hose the entire pile down and turn it with a pitchfork at least once a week.
On a smaller scale, you can layer non-glossy junk mail and paper towels, with kitchen scraps, and you’ll get the same effect.
If you’re interested in learning how to build a larger composting setup using pallets, check out our video:
Now you may be saying to yourself, “I don’t have a yard. Where I can start a compost pile?” Don’t worry! You don’t need space to start composting. All you need is a container and the desire to get going.
Time to get composting!
For around $3 you can buy an orange bucket from Home Depot, which will work perfectly for composting. Even cheaper yet, sometimes you can get free buckets from the bakery section of your local grocery store. Just approach the bakery section and ask! Sometimes they charge you a few dollars as a fee and sometimes they just give them to you for free. Pretty nifty, right?
Once you get your bucket, ideally you would drill a few holes in the side and bottom. Then you start layering your compost material. Start with a layer of leaves or paper, then add your kitchen scraps on top. Follow this process, putting down a layer of brown and a layer of green. After each addition of greens, give it a good mix. You can do this by putting the lid on and giving it a shake. It also doesn’t hurt to occasionally spritz it with water.
If you aren’t able to drill the holes, you’ll just have to mix your compost more often, to make sure it gets good airflow.
Once your bucket is ¾ of the way full, put the lid on and set it aside. You’ll need to give it some time to break down, which could take a little while. Be sure to still occasionally give it a good shake and a spray of water to help it along.
While that bucket is breaking down, you can start up a new bucket and keep the process going.
We’re starting a brand-new composting system right now and we’ll be following the exact steps outlined here, just on a larger scale. It’s as simple as that!
I swear, I feel like our waste has been cut in half, which is good considering the trash guy only comes every other week in the country. Just think about how many of your household items qualify for composting…the paper towels, food scraps, junk mail, cardboard boxes, grass trimmings, leaves, it really adds up.
Our plants have never been healthier!
Compost really creates a nutrient-rich soil, full of life. It’s like giving your garden a boost and it’s practically free! We really hope you’ll give composting a try. If you have any questions about the process, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to help you get started on your composting journey.
How To Use Your Compost to Make Great Potting Mix…
If you’ve tried any of our gardening tips, we’d really love to hear from you! Send us an email or leave a comment below the gardening idea you tried. You can also comment on our Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter pages.
For Other Great Gardening Ideas, Check Out These Posts:
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- Borage – A Garden Gem for Pollinators
- Garden Pests of the Pacific Northwest
- Potato Flowers – A Sign of Health and Growth