Whether you are just getting started or already full-on into living sustainably, creating your own compost is simple and easy. The first rule of composting 101 is determining what purposes your compost should achieve and why. Most people use compost for gardening and farming. However, there are other potential uses, such as creating biogas, which is a mixture consisting of primarily methane and carbon dioxide.
As far as the process goes, making compost works the same, regardless of what you want to use it for. However, the purpose might determine how much you need. For instance, you might need a much larger composting pile for farming than for creating biogas to cook for a single person.
Follow These Steps
At first glance, composting might seem easy enough. After all, how hard can it be to simply create an area for organic material to decompose? However, there is as much a science as an artform behind this practice. Following the necessary steps ensures your compost pile works as it should, requires very little maintenance and does not become a nuisance on your property.
Choose a Location
Some gardeners advocate heavily for composting on bare earth. The main reason for this is that the natural soil already contains earthworms and other organisms that provide free assistance with the breakdown of organic material. When you use an enclosed, synthetic material, you miss out on these additional benefits and organisms miss out on free food.
That said, sometimes it just isn’t possible to do your composting on bare soil. For instance, many people’s compost piles begin in composting toilets. Some families use countertop composting bins or tumblers. Others build properly sealed containers outside to ensure the material doesn’t attract rodents and other pests. If you use your compost for generating fuel, your biogas generator might provide its own container. Consider your unique circumstances carefully before making a decision.
Identify the Material You Can Compost
As a general rule, you should only compost organic material. Any material made from formerly living materials counts. Here are some good examples:
- Paper products and byproducts, such as newspapers and cardboard
- Wood products and byproducts, such as sawdust and twigs
- Other plant material, such as grass clippings and raked leaves
- Table scraps, such as coffee grounds and chopped corn stalks
- Animal products and byproducts, such as chicken manure and compost toilet contents
Work on Creating the Proper Mix
If you have more of one type of compost material than others, you might feel compelled to use that mostly or even by itself. However, you need both green and brown materials. Green materials include food or fresh clippings from trees, while brown materials include dry leaves or newspaper. If you intend to use your compost pile for planting, add a premium soil conditioner so that it makes up a tenth of the mixture. This improves the health of the soil product.
You also need to consider the correct mixture for the appropriate location. Your container might also have a say in this. For instance, a compost toilet has a very specific purpose and can only handle specific substances. A composting toilet is a type of dry toilet that treats human feces as organic matter and turns it into a compost-like material.
However, if you intend to use food scraps as part of your composting, gardeners recommend keeping these setups outside as they do tend to attract rodents and other pests.
Continue to Do a Little Maintenance
If you mix both brown and green materials together for your compost pile, you should have very little maintenance work ahead. However, there are a few things you need to do to keep it that way. For starters, you do want to keep feeding your compost pile so organisms have food to keep breaking down inside. This is especially important if you rely on your compost pile to create biogas.
The next important chore is aerating the soil once every two weeks. If you have a manual system, especially outdoors, use a pitchfork to get the job done. If you have a more sophisticated system, such as a countertop tumbler, it usually comes with rotary arms that allow you to spin the compost pile. The manufacturer might recommend more frequent turning for smaller systems, so be sure to follow the instructions if you use a readymade setup.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
Starting Too Small: The larger your compost pile, the better. Note that a larger mass tends to make the breakdown process easier. However, try not to overwhelm yourself. Consider your resources beyond just space but also the time you have and the purpose of the compost. Then, plan accordingly.
Letting the Pile Dry Out: If you live in humid climates, this is probably the least of your concerns. Even if the pile is safely protected from rain, condensation helps to keep the soil moist. In dryer climates, such as the American Southwest, you might need to take extra care to retain moisture. Note that aerating the mixture plays a role in this as well.
Using Just One Material: Many people start compost piles because they have a specific type of waste material they want to use in a better way. However, as mentioned earlier, you need to ensure you get a good mix in place. Find out a list of all the material you can compost and encourage family members and even neighbors to chip in.
Failing to Do Pest Control: If you use food scraps in your compost pile, you need to take extra precautions to discourage pests. Some people accomplish this by sealing the container or installing special metal barriers so mice and snakes cannot enter the pile. Do some research to find out what the pest risks are for your area and how best to manage them.
Using Manure for Food Growth: Manure is a nitrogen-rich component that can boost any compost pile, but while handling and if not properly composted, you might face health risks. Because of this, many experts recommend leaving pet, livestock, and human manure out of at-home composting piles used to grow edible gardens.
Overthinking the Process: While there are key steps to follow when making compost, try not to spend so much time thinking that you don’t spend enough time doing. Composting also takes time, so be patient and try not to expect immediate results.
Get Started Today
Composting is the secret ingredient for every successful garden. Improve your composting and gardening experience even more by adding Harvest Gold Organics premium soil conditioner to the mix.