Composting is a sustainable practice that can provide important nutrients to your garden and improve soil structure. The compost itself comes from organic material such as food and yard waste that has been decomposed and recycled as fertilizer and soil amendment. Composting can divert up to 30% of household waste away from the garbage can, and it provides a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. Our family incorporates composting for several reasons:
- It teaches the kids about taking care of the earth.
- It gets kids involved in household chores and gardening.
- It is an interesting learning experience to see the transformation and usefulness of kitchen and yard waste into a nutrient-rich material for our garden. We love it when pumpkins, watermelons, or tomato plants pop up from our compost!
How to Compost:
- Start on bare earth and lay down twigs or straw to enhance drainage and help aerate your compost pile.
- Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist (e.g. kitchen scraps) and dry (e.g. dried brown leaves or other yard material).
- Add green manure or green grass clippings to activate the composting process and speed things along.
- Water the compost pile occasionally or let the rain do the job.
- Cover your compost pile to retain moisture and heat, both essential for the composting process.
- Turn your compost pile with a pitchfork or shovel every few weeks to aerate it. Alternatively, you can add in a coarse dry material such as straw if you have a good supply of it.
You can use a ceramic, stainless steel, or bamboo counter top composter to collect food scraps. A plastic container in the refrigerator works also. When the container is full, take it out to your compost pile! Here are a few kitchen compost containers:
If you would prefer not to have an open compost pile in your yard, enclosed compost bins can be used for small scale outdoor composting. You can build one yourself from a heavy duty garbage bin (see YouTube video). Another option is to purchase an enclosed stationary or rotating compost bin. Both discourage animal pests and keep compost neatly enclosed. The rotating compost tumbler has the added benefit of composting year round and speeding up the composting process. Here are a few outdoor compost bins, the first one is the type of outside compost bin that we have next to our vegetable garden: