How to Start Composting

All, Home & Renters, Living Adventures, Preferred Movement     by Matt House

Learning how to compost is a simple matter: Your first compost pile need not involve much more than a lidded trash bin, two bungee cords, a power drill, and a team of rollers – your children, perhaps – who can give the bin a few good rotations on a regular basis.

To begin, drill 10 to 15 holes on each side of the trash bin, in a column under each handle, as it’s important for the compost pile to receive a healthy dose of air. For best results, have someone hold the bin in place as you drill. Next, drill several holes in the lid.

If you didn’t begin this process outside, the time has come to take your project outdoors. Fill the bin about one-third of the way full with grass cuttings and leaves. Spray them with a healthy misting of water, making sure the pile is a bit damp. Secure the lid to the bin with the bungee cords.

Your compost pile is now ready for your kitchen scraps. If you’re new to composting, remember that you can’t add everything. You don’t want to add anything that will attract unwanted pests, bacteria, or disease – stay away from meat products, milk products, sawdust, diseased plants, cooking oil, bread products, rice, walnuts, used bathroom items, and heavily coated or printed paper products.

Generally, you add “green” and “brown” things to a compost pile; the former are nitrogen-rich and the latter supply carbon to the pile. Here are some “green” items that you may include:

•Vegetable and fruit peels or rinds
•Coffee grounds
•Tea leaves/bags
•Houseplant trimmings
•Grass cuttings
•Fresh leaves
•Dead leaves
•Sod removed from old garden beds
•Egg shells
•Weeds that haven’t gone to seed
•Dried herbs and spices that have diminished in flavor

“Brown” items breakdown more slowly than the “green,” so it’s not a bad idea to give them a rip or a rough chop before adding them to the pile. Here is a list of “brown” items you may include:

•Shredded newspaper or other, non-glossy papers
•Plain, non-glossy cardboard
•Autumn leaves
•Hamster or rabbit bedding
•Pine cones, twigs, or small branches
•Nut shells (not walnut)
•Used coffee filters

Remember to turn your bin on its side and roll it around, completely tossing the contents, every few days. For best compost results, all ingredients must be exposed to a healthy dose of ventilation.


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