Whether you do a lot of gardening, want to do more for the environment, or wish you could decrease your food waste, you might have heard the term “composting” floating around here and there. It might sound like an intimidating endeavor, but composting is actually a pretty simple and effective way you can reduce your waste while improving your garden, thanks to a bit of scientific know-how! If you’re trying to figure out how you can compost at home, check out our 9 tips below to help you get started:
First of All, What Is Compost?
The mixture you get when you combine kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials – that’s called compost. It’s the “black gold” that your garden and its soil crave. Why? Compost is rich in plant-friendly nutrients, which is often a blessing to depleted soil. Thanks to a combination of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, moisture, and helpful microorganisms, the organic materials in your heap will break down over time, creating matter that will boost your soil’s ability to grow and nurture more plants!
The Many Benefits of Composting
Did you know that an estimated 30-40% of the food supply in the United States is wasted? Much of that winds up in municipal landfills when it can be enriching your garden instead. Composting can make that happen! Aside from reducing food waste, here are some more excellent benefits that composting can bring:
- Controls soil erosion while rejuvenating the soil itself
- Protects and treats plant disease and nutrient deficiencies
- Revitalizes and filters local water sources
- Prevents the use of artificial fertilizers and harsh chemicals
- Reduces methane emissions caused by food and yard waste
- Decreases landfill costs
- Lowers farming production costs
- Positively affects the environment
Sounds great, right? If you’re ready to get started, here are our 9 tips to help you become a composting pro in no time!
Choose the Right Container
When it comes to composting, there are dozens of ways to do it. You just need to find the right way to get the job done for you! Most of the time, this involves buying a container of some sort (instead of relying on worms or burying your food waste straight into the soil). Some options include:
- Plastic stationary bins: These are probably the most common composting containers! You simply pile a few new layers of material on top of the others and then mix it up every week or so till it’s good to go.
- Tumblers: These are great for batch composting. They might be a pricier option, but they can help accelerate the composting process. What might take months can take as little as three weeks, thanks to tumblers!
- Indoor containers: Of course, you can always keep a small container inside your home. These are often used when you want to donate your heap to a community composting location on a weekly basis.
Find the Right Spot
Take a peek out your window. Where are the driest, shadiest spots in your yard? These places could be ideal for your future compost heap, which needs to have a controlled balance of temperature and moisture. If you’d rather do the dirty work indoors, that’s no problem! We recommend finding a cool, dry place to keep your home smelling fresh.
Compost the Right Materials
Unfortunately, you can’t just compost any old thing! You’ll want to avoid including anything that might harm your plants or attract rodents. This includes pet waste, charcoal ashes, animal products (dairy, meat, etc.), and any yard trimmings that were treated with pesticides. What can you include? Essentially, anything that came from the ground – vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds, tea bags, and possibly even shredded, uncoated paper products.
Let the Water Drain
Remember how we mentioned that your compost heap requires just enough moisture to make the magic happen? You’ll want a way for excess water to exit your compost heap. To keep the environment damp, build a base layer of twigs or straw that’s at least a few inches off the bottom of the pile. The remaining water will drain away instantly. Remember, a compost heap should always be damp – never dry nor saturated!
Be Smart About Layering
All successful compost heaps need carbon and nitrogen to decompose. Carbon derives from dry, tough, fibrous materials (browns) while nitrogen comes from lawn waste, kitchen scraps, tea leaves, and coffee grounds (greens). For an effective mixture, layer with one-part green and three-parts brown. This will help waste break down more quickly while keeping any smells at bay. Additionally, only add just a little bit at a time; you don’t want to overwhelm the heap!
Aeration Is Key
Oxygen is another necessary component that helps decompose organic materials. Introduce plenty of oxygen to your compost heap with regular aeration! Every week or two, take your shovel or pitchfork and turn over the material in your outdoor bin to introduce fresh air to the heap, which will help speed the decomposition process.
Keep Flies Away
Fruit flies are bothersome, especially when they find something they like. Keep them away from your compost bin as much as possible by making or purchasing a fruit fly trap, boiling the food waste (it makes it less appealing to fruit flies), or by spreading out how often you add to the heap.
Show Pests They’re Not Welcome
Maybe one of the bigger reasons you’ve been hesitant to start a compost heap is you’re concerned it might attract rodents and other nocturnal critters like possums or raccoons. You can absolutely avoid that by ensuring your final layer is made with brown materials. And remember: don’t compost animal products – that’s what really attracts pests!
Make Your Plants Happy
Does your compost look like smooth, dark, rich soil? If so, then it should be ready to use on your plants and lawn! You can use it in potted plants, garden beds, mulching material, and even your potting soil. If you’d rather not get your hands dirty, a local farmer or community collection center will happily use your compost! If you’ve been wishing you could begin your compost heap or even branch out by starting a vegetable garden and adding a peaceful deck but you’re short on space, don’t worry! Trust the experts at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties to help you find the home of your dreams. Learn more by calling either (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298, or view our current listings here!