Wondering how to make compost?
Or are you a seasoned composting veteran, who’s looking to make the most of your compost? We’ve got a heap of information, tips and tricks that can benefit a beginning composter or advanced. If you’re already composting we don’t need to sell you on the benefits. You’ll be feeding your plants fresh, natural ingredients—a multivitamin of sorts—that will allow them to grow strong and healthy. And you’ll be contributing to the circle of life. Instead of wastefully throwing away kitchen scraps and landscaping odds and ends, you can turn them into straight gold—a valuable compost your plants and soil will swoon over. With organic wastes, such as food waste and yard waste, making up 25 to 50% of what people throw away, starting a compost pile can significantly cut down on your overall trash.
Not only does compost contain all of the major plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) in forms readily available to plants, but it also contains a wealth of minor and trace elements as well as billions (yes, literally billions) of bacteria, yeast, fungi and other soil creatures. These nutrients and trace elements will continue to break down organic and inorganic matter in the compost and in your soil, providing a long-term, steady feeding of nutrients to plants. Also, because of its loose, fluffy texture, compost improves the tilth, or structure, of all garden soils, both increasing the drainage of clay soils and binding together sandy soils, enhancing their moisture retention. Regardless of where you garden or what you grow, compost will make your plants healthier and more vigorous and increase their flowering and fruiting like no other substance you can give them. Simply put, composting is the best possible thing you can do for your garden. Truth.
So, How DO You Make Compost?
There are 4 key words to remember: green, brown, air and water. That means to make compost, all you have to do is bring together moist, fresh, predominantly green ingredients (grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps and the like) and predominantly brown ingredients (dead leaves, straw, hay, wood shavings, chips, etc.) that will act as snacks for the organisms that will decompose the pile. To start your compost pile, reduce the size of the ingredients you’re using in the pile by chopping them with a machete, a sharp garden spade or other tool. Autumn leaves can be shredded quite well by repeatedly mowing over them. Then add all the ingredients together, layering them in 3-4-inch-thick layers if you’re using a bin, or just tossing them together if you’re using a tumbler of some sort. Strive for somewhere between a 5:1 and an 8:1 ratio, by volume, of brown materials to green, but don’t get too persnickety. If the proportion is off, it’s easy enough remedy.
Make sure the mix remains damp, and turn or stir it every few days to reintroduce oxygen to the pile. While the soil and leafy scraps usually have enough of the proper microbes to get the composting process started, for fresh batches of material you can add our Compost Starter to quicken the composting process. Adding earthworms to your on-ground composter and or garden soil will also speed up the composting process, and will add extra soil nutrients (from the worm castings). Keep adding worms from your finished compost back into fresh material. That’s it. In less than a month, you’ll have rich, crumbly, brown compost that you can add to your garden soil, mulch or use in container gardening.
Actively engaging in the composting process just speeds the whole process up greatly. Researchers have found that it’s possible to make finished compost (that is, compost that is so completely broken down that none of its component materials are distinguishable) in as little as 10 days. On a more practical note, average gardeners can make a good batch of compost every 3-4 weeks; over a growing season. Yup, that’s a lot of free fertilizer that is keeping your plants happy and healthy while helping you reduce landfill waste!
The Coolest Compost Bins
Compost can be made anywhere, in virtually any kind of container, or in no container at all—just a big pile. Below are a few compost bins we recommend.
We’re also big fans of our bite-sized kitchen composters—little containers that can fit on your counter or in your freezer for uber-easy composting.