Whether you’re growing a garden for the first time this year, have been gardening for a while, or only dabble in container gardening on your patio, this is the perfect time to start creating compost for your garden!
Even if you’ve never tried composting before, our easy Gardening Guide to Compost for Beginners gives you the step by step instructions and tips you need to get started now.
With fertilizer being as expensive at it is, learning how to make and use your own compost is a big help on your gardening budget. In addition to saving money, you will be helping the environment and reducing waste. Composting is a wonderful green solution for disposing of household waste and can be a natural bonus to your organic garden this year.
Set Up a Compost Bin
To begin, you will need a large compost bin or a designated area to make a compost heap. Composters and bins can be purchased at major gardening centers, online garden equipment manufacturers and even some local hardware stores. Basic models are relatively inexpensive. Though wooden bins are more aesthetically pleasing, plastic bins are less money and just as effective. An open compost pile will work fine, but you should invest in a cover during the cold winter months.
Alternately, you can utilize a wormerie, which uses worms to digest kitchen debris and produce compost as well as liquid plant food that is high in nutrients. To build your own composter, purchase some wood pallets and build a small enclosure. As long as you have the necessary tools, raw materials will run you around $20.
What Can You Put in Compost?
Most of your organic home and garden waste can be used for composting, although there are some things you definitely want to avoid. If you are ever unsure if something should be composted, it is best to leave it out.
Do put these items in compost:
- vegetable scraps
- coffee grounds
- egg shells
- tea bags
- yard and lawn clippings
Don’t put these items in compost:
- all dairy
- waste (human or animal)
Though shredded papers and cardboard are perfectly acceptable, avoid adding glossy magazines.
How to Keep Your Compost Organic
If your aim is to create organic compost for organic gardening, evaluate items closely before you add them to your compost pile. Items such as fruits, vegetables, and egg shells are great for composting, but if they weren’t organic when you bought them, they’ll be passing on chemicals to your compost when they break down. This is also true with mowed grass or leaves from plants that have been treated with chemicals or insecticides. Remember: Organic + organic = organic. Organic + non-organic = non-organic.
How Long Does Compost Take to Break Down?
The amount of time compost takes to develop generally depends on your composting needs. If you are looking to use compost as a fertilizer, you will need to tend to the heap and manage your compost. This will include adding greens and turning as necessary. Managed compost on average takes 3 months.
However, if your goal is simply to dispose of household waste in a green fashion, your heap can be left unattended to compost on its own. This method will generally produce compost in 6-9 months.
Compost for Beginners – Tips for Success
- Composters have the potential for giving off a strong odor, so you will want to set up your compost a good distance from your home. Remember, however, that you will need to make frequent trips to the compost pile with your kitchen scraps, so it should not be at the other end of the yard completely.
- You want worms and other natural composters to have ample access, so avoid placing the bin on top of concrete areas. Opt instead for level ground with adequate drainage.
- Because heat will help the composting process, try to situate your bin in an area that receives ample sunlight and is shielded from strong winds. If you live in hot, dry climates, shade may be a better option to prevent compost from drying out.
- Remember that shredding or cutting up ingredients will help them compost faster than larger items.
If you’re new to gardening, next you’ll want to read our Gardening Tips for Beginners.
Thanks to Works for Me Wednesday and Homemaker Mondays for linking up this article! We originally published Gardening Guide to Compost for Beginners on June 9, 2009. Top compost photo by solylunafamilia. Middle compost photo by Joi.