Composting is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices in the world of gardening. It provides a natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer and soil amendment, while reducing the amount of waste that is pushed toward our landfills. Aside from minimal start-up costs, it's free. Many homeowners are interested in the idea, but just don't know how to get started. Here are some simple steps to get you on the way to turning household and yard waste into a great gardening asset.
While you can purchase a variety of bins or receptacles designed for creating compost, it's simple to make one for little cost. Buy a 12-foot section of heavy-gauge galvanized dog fencing, the kind with rectangular 2-inch by 4-inch openings, and curl it into a circle and hold it in place with wire ties. Your finished container will be a cylinder with openings that allow for the air circulation necessary for the breakdown of organic matter.
Fill your bin with composting ingredients. These are generally broken into two categories known as the "greens" and "browns." The greens are vegetable food scraps, green yard clippings, manure, coffee grounds and other nitrogen-rich waste products. The browns are leaves, straw, sawdust, newspaper and other carbon-rich types of natural waste. The presence of both types of waste is necessary for the microbes that will break down the material and turn it into compost. In terms of volume, you'll need about two shovels full of brown for every one shovel of green. As you fill your container with layers of brown and green ingredients, wet the layers with the hose.
Your compost pile will heat and break down more quickly if the ingredients are turned regularly. Use a pitchfork to reach down and fluff up the pile weekly. You'll notice the volume of the pile shrinking as decomposition occurs. Keep adding more waste to the top to insulate the pile and retain the heat of the decomposition process. Eventually you'll notice a soil-like black substance at the bottom of the pile. This is the finished compost. If you're using the wire container, simply lift it to access the compost at the bottom while keeping the still-decomposing ingredients contained higher up.