While there are many variations on composting the basic approach is quite simple. All composting ingredients usually fall into the categories of “browns” or “greens”. Browns are dry materials like wood chips, dried leaves, grass, and other plants. Greens are fresh, moist materials like grass cuttings and food scraps (no meats, fats, or grease allowed!) To make compost complete the following steps:
- Collect as many browns and greens as you can and start a pile. Larger piles hold moisture better and decompose faster.
- Place equal amounts of browns and greens in a heap, bin, or container. Always cover food scraps with other materials to keep pests away and reduce odor.
- Soak well with water to create even dampness (damp like a wrung-out sponge is what you are after). cover pile with tarp or other material to keep moisture in and prevent oversoaking from rain.
For quicker composting (1-3) months:
- Chop materials into smaller pieces and moisten.
- Alternate 3″ to 6″ layers of greens and browns.
- Mix the pile by turning and stirring.
- Soak the pile once a week.
- Odors? Turn and add brown materials.
- Dry pile? Add water, greens and mix.
- Fruit flies? Stir and add leaves or grass.
Composting Q & A’s
What is composting? Composting is the natural process of decomposition and recycling of organic material into a humus-rich soil amendment known as compost.
Is composting considered recycling? Yes. Composting is nature’s way of recycling.
Are yard clippings waste? No. Grass, leaves, food scraps, and paper towels are organic materials that can and should be converted into compost.
How does compost benefit the soil? Compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration. it increases its water-holding capacity, loosens clay soil, and helps sandy soils retain water. Adding compost to soil aids in erosion control, promotes soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development in plants. Plants grown in compost-rich soils are stronger and more resistant to disease and insects.
Can compost replace petroleum-based fertilizers? Yes. Generous amounts of rich compost can supply the nutrients needed for healthy plant growth. In addition to compost, planting green cover crops such as clover or vetch can significantly boost nitrogen levels in the soil.
Do I need a bin to make compost? No. Compost can be made in open piles. Bins do help keep piles neat, retain heat and moisture and are more appropriate for many urban situations.
Harmonious Technologies (1997) Backyard Composting. Sebastopol: Harmonious Press