Home Tip Tuesday: Composting Tips

Healthy compost requires a delicate balance of nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials.

By composting yard waste and food scraps, you can create your own black gold: Nutrient-rich compost that makes your garden outshine your neighbor's. Healthy compost requires a delicate balance of nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials. Follow these tips to keep your compost pile happy and healthy. 

Get Off to the Right Start

You can either create your own compost pile in a corner of your yard or purchase a compost bin. Bins keep compost piles neat and are great for city composting, but it can be difficult to get the finished compost out of the bin. Bins are also expensive. Tumblers are horizontal compost bins that turn for easier harvesting, and can be optimal in cities and suburbs. Compost piles are messier, require more space, and could attract pests, but they are free to build and easy to work with. 

Whether you opt for a compost bin or pile, situate it in the right location. Put your compost bin or pile in full sun to take advantage of solar heat.

What to Compost 

In the yard, compost grass clippings, leaves, weeds, and other trimmings from healthy plants. Never compost plant material that was diseased or treated with chemicals, since this could pass on the disease and the chemicals to your garden. 

From your kitchen, compost tea and coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, and eggshells. Avoid composting meat and dairy products. While these will break down, they can attract wild animals to your compost bin. 

Avoid composting meat and dairy products as they attract pests.

Save pieces of cardboard, including the tubes inside paper towel and toilet paper rolls, newspaper, and other pieces of scrap paper. These are important sources of carbon for your compost pile. 

Aim to combine brown materials (paper, cardboard, leaves, and dry grass) with green materials (fresh grass, plants, and food scraps) in equal measures. 

How to Help Your Compost Break Down Quickly

Light, heat, water, and air help compost break down. The ideal temperature range for decomposition is 120 to 160 Fahrenheit. The process will be slower at lower temperatures. 

Water promotes decomposition. Keep your compost wet, especially in the summer months. 

To promote faster decomposition, turn your compost every couple weeks. You can do this with a pitchfork or use a compost tumbler to take the hard work out of it. Your compost pile will be more active in the summer and will not decompose during freezing winter temperatures, so you may wish to stop feeding it in winter. 

If you turn your compost pile regularly, it can mature in as little as three months! Finished compost is dark, rich and contains no recognizable plant matter. Once your compost is mature, spread it on your plants to promote growth without using chemical fertilizers. 

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