In my eBook Accidentally Green, I’ve shared how one of my goals for the future is to create a compost pile at my home. We’d like to help the soil in our garden and put a lot of our kitchen waste to good use.
This summer my husband and I are taking the plunge! Actually, he’s creating an area for compost close to our vegetable garden so transferring the finished product won’t be difficult.
But what is compost? And how does one start a compost pile? Let’s dig right in (how ‘bout that pun!?) …
What is compost?
As a very basic explanation, compost is decayed organic matter that’s used as a fertilizer for plants. You can make your own buy combining “brown” materials that are high in carbon with “green” materials that are high in nitrogen. The browns can be as simple as dead leaves and the greens can be fresh grass clippings. (Many other things can be used as brown and green compost materials.)
Once decomposed, the carbon and nitrogen in the compost help improve the structure of the soil. Compost helps the soil hold water, and more nutrients will be added to the soil, as well. Better soil and more nutrients are simple ways to grow healthier plants.
Aside from the green and brown organic materials, air and water are needed for composting:
- To provide enough air, compost can be turned with a shovel or pitchfork weekly (some people insist on turning, others refuse).
- Compost should feel moist. If it’s really wet, add air and dry materials (and cover it to avoid too much rainwater). If it’s too dry (ants are often a sign of this), add water and cover the pile with grass clippings.
Establishing a compost pile
Once you’re ready to start composting and have the location set for your pile, you can start building it. Add about 3 inches of brown material like sticks or plants at the bottom. Then, add 3 inches of green materials like kitchen waste or grass clippings.
Continue to add materials – and if you choose to turn or add water, do so. (Here’s what you should – and shouldn’t – add to compost piles.)
Once your compost begins to look like dark, crumbly soil – instead of a heap of grass clippings, egg shells, dead leaves, and coffee grounds – it’s ready to be used. This decomposition process should take a couple months.
Do you have a compost pile? What has worked for you? What hasn’t? What do you wish you knew when you started composting?
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