5 Tips For Composting
Whether you're a gardener or you're trying to live a greener life, there are many benefits of composting. It enriches soil, reduces the need for water and fertilizers, and helps clean contaminated soil to create a healthy environment for everyone, from kids to kittens. Gardens can be a little more lush and pure from composting, but you have to do it right. Here are 5 tips to get your composting going.
Know What To Compost
There are things that are obviously compostable, like dead leaves from your yard that can easily be returned to the earth, but a lot of what's in your garbage is compostable as well. It takes a little bit of effort, but to weed out your compostable materials, it's best to separate your recyclables from your organic garbage as you go (it actually makes your trash less smelly, in addition to making composting simple). The compostable items should be separated further into two categories: brown material (high carbon) and green material (high nitrogen). Brown materials are items like paper products (but avoid using wrapping paper or colored paper) and peanut shells - items you know break down in the earth fairly easily. Green materials are items like kitchen scraps or green waste from the garden like grass clippings or vegetables.
Mix It Right
When adding material to your compost, alternate between the brown materials and the green materials. They work together to compost. If you have more of one material than the other, it may take a bit longer to break down. If you notice you're adding a lot of kitchen scraps, you may want to balance it out with shredded paper.
Mix It Often
Bacteria break down material and need oxygen to survive and continue the process. That means you need to turn your compost; the frequency often depends on the size of the compost pile. The best way to tell if your compost is breaking down is if it's hot. If it's cold, that means very little is happening in your pile and you need to turn it. Turning it helps get the compressed material moving and exposed to the bacteria. You do have the option to just let your compost pile sit, but it will take a lot longer for it to break down and be usable.
Keep It Wet
Just as compost piles need oxygen, they also need moisture to keep it thriving. It shouldn't be too wet: if you squeeze a handful of it and water comes out, there's too much water. It should be just wet enough that it takes shape when you squeeze it. There are some things you can't control (like rain) that make your compost soggy, but you can correct that by adding dry compostable materials.
If Your Compost Stinks
Your compost pile shouldn't be too stinky -- unless you're using composting manure. If your compost smells bad, that may mean you have too many green materials rotting. You can correct this by adding more brown materials. The other reason it might smell is because your pile may not be getting enough oxygen and it needs to be turned.
With these helpful tips you'll be well on the way to creating your very own compost pile. Finished compost can be spread into your flowerbeds and garden to improve soil quality by helping it retain moisture and suppressing weeds. The nutrient-dense mixture also reduces the need to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which is good news for the environment and ideal for yards with kids and pets.