Top 6 Tips for Composting

By Liz Baessler | July 30, 2016
Image by audaxl
by Liz Baessler
July 30, 2016

Composting is an awesome way to help both the environment and your garden. Instead of throwing out those kitchen scraps, you can turn them into rich, nutritious food for your plants. And you barely have to do any work – just kick back and let the bacteria do it for you! That being said, there are a few things you should do optimize your process. These are our top 6 tips for composting:

1. Know your greens and browns – Compostable materials can all be divided into two main categories: greens and browns. There’s more to it than just color, though, and not everything brown counts as “brown.” Green materials are rich in nitrogen, and this is where basically all of your kitchen scraps fall. Greens also include grass clippings, manure, and most young plants. Browns are rich in carbon and are, as a rule, anything that comes from trees. This includes leaves, sawdust, woody branches, and paper products.

2. Keep a good ratio – In order to make effective compost, you need both carbon and nitrogen. The ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio is 30:1. But that doesn’t mean 30 leaves to every 1 kitchen scrap. Even though kitchen scraps are high in nitrogen, they’re still mostly carbon. Vegetable peels, for instance, have a ratio of about 25:1. As long as you have some of each, you should be fine.

3. Work in layers – When putting your compost heap together, stack it in alternating layers of browns and greens. Hose the pile down between each layer to get it moist.

4. Cover it up – You don’t need a fancy plastic composter with a lid, but it is a good idea to keep your compost covered with at least a thick layer of straw. This will discourage animals from going digging.

5. Keep turning – About a week after you start your pile, work it around with a pitchfork. The inside should be hot and maybe even steamy. Move it around so the stuff on the cool outside gets a turn in the hot inside.

6. Wait til it’s finished – Your compost may be ready in as little as 6 weeks, but don’t use it before then. If it looks nice and crumbly, go ahead and apply, but fish out any big pieces and throw them back on the pile. Putting uncomposted stuff in your soil just robs your plants of essential nutrients.

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