How to compost. Composting is a good idea most people always plan to do but just end up talking about in the long run. That’s really unfortunate, as fresh compost works magic on plants like nothing else while also being 100% environmentally friendly.
How to compost
Guest Post by Craig Stewart
If you’d like to make your dreams of a compost pile into a reality, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s learn about what composting is and how you can get started right now.
What are Your Composting Options?
Like with most projects, you’ll need to make a plan before you start composting. To do this, you’ll first need to decide what kind of compost pile you wish to make. This means picking between hot or cold composting.
A cold compost is, contrary to what it may sound like, not a compost done in cold weather. Rather, it refers to a compost that takes roughly a year to complete. The biodegradable materials in your cold compost break down over a longer period of time with little effort or interaction from you, making it ideal for those who can’t devote a lot of time to their compost or gardening.
Hot composts, on the other hand, finish in a much shorter amount of time but require some level of attentiveness on the part of the gardener. Through selecting certain types of nitrogen-rich materials to use in the compost and frequent agitation of the pile, the compost will actually get fairly hot at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This method is good for those with time to spare, as well as those who wish to make use of as many organic materials as possible (the high heat will kill diseases or seeded weeds, two things that would ruin a cold compost).
What to Compost
Your options are vast and varied when it comes to what kind of things you can toss on a compost pile. Vegetables, fruits, and peels from both are a great place to start, as are coffee grounds and filters along with other paper products. Egg shells, too, are a great material to use. Lawn clippings, dry leaves, and finely mulched, unprocessed wood or sawdust can also be used.
There are a few items to steer clear of, however. These include meats, fats, dairy, dog, cat, and human waste, and any wood that has been pressure-treated should not be included, as they will either not break down or spread disease within the compost. Additionally, any kind of plant with a disease or weed that has started to go to seed should not be used in a cold compost. With hot composts, the heat levels will kill any seeds or bacteria living inside your materials, but cold composts don’t have this advantage.
Additionally, you might want to avoid using garlic or onion in your compost pile. While these items are biodegradable, they might cause worms to avoid your pile. Worms are a natural source of agitation and nitrogen for your compost, two things that help it decompose faster, so scaring them off makes the job that much harder.
How to Compost
Obviously, there are going to be a few differences when it comes to composting one way versus another. For that reason, we’ll break down a short list of steps for each style of composting so you can choose the one that fits your needs the best.
Cold composting is the most simple form of composting, with barely any work involved. To start, simply make a pile of compostable materials. After that, have fun waiting, as your job is mostly over. Aside from agitating the pile every now and then and occasionally watering it, there’s nothing else you have to do to the cold compost pile as it breaks down. You can even throw on new materials as you like while it decomposes into crumbly brown compost.
Hot composting is the most labor-intensive way to compost, starting with what goes into your pile. When hot composting, you want to make sure you have a good ratio of “green” and “brown” materials. “Green” materials are anything that contains a high amount of nitrogen, while “brown” materials are anything with a high amount of carbon. The ideal ratio of these two would be a 1:2 of green to brown.
In general, green items would be anything that’s “fresh” like peelings, grass clippings, or other things that have only recently become compost-worthy, while brown items are things like paper, wood, or leaves that have been dead for some time. Additionally, green items are typically moist whereas brown items are typically dry.
To begin, make a compost pile about three feet deep following the 1:2 ratio of green to brown mentioned before and moistening with water. Adjust the materials as needed by adding more brown if the pile is too wet or smells bad or adding more green and water. By the end, your pile should have a good mix of both and be slightly damp.
Once the pile is assembled, agitate it with a shovel, trowel, or another garden implement. Do this once a week to keep the pile well-aerated and to help larger pieces break apart quicker. After that, it’s all a matter of waiting.
Your pile should become noticeably hotter within a day or two. To check, you could use a compost thermometer. If you notice a significant temperature drop or rise during the composting process, make sure to agitate the pile immediately and add more water. Once things get going, they won’t stop for a few weeks to a few months, after which the temperature should fall and the compost should be dry and ready to use.
While it might be intimidating to think of, composting is actually pretty easy to pull off. All you need is a little know-how and a lot of materials and you’ll be feeding your plants the best quality homegrown compost in no time.