Composting at home is great way to repurpose food scraps and create organic matter for your garden. You not only are creating less trash, but you are obtaining organic material, also known as black gold, that can help your plants grow.
When composting at home, there are a few things you need to know. What you can and cannot compost, how often to turn the compost matter, and how to use it.
Where to put your compost bin or pile
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A compost bin is the most common method. You can build your own compost bin, or you can purchase one. However, you can also just create a compost pile.
Our compost bin is in an area of the yard that is away from the house. A far corner of the yard is a good place to put it, or if you don’t have a back yard to compost, you can buy an indoor compost bin.
How composting at home works
Factors that play into composting properly at home are temperature, moisture, and air ventilation.
Compost needs warmth and moisture to break down. Keeping the compost bin covered will trap both heat and moisture creating a greenhouse gas.
The temperature of the compost should range from 140 to 160 degrees. A compost thermometer can be used to test the temperature of the compost. Or, you can use your hand to feel the temperature which should range from warm to hot.
Composting food scraps
Food scraps are the most common items in the home that you will want to compost. Fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds and tea bags.
Because we have a very large yard, our compost bin is a distance from the house. For that reason I have a covered compost pail on the back deck where I put my kitchen scraps. When it is full, I take it out to the compost bin and dump it.
Composting non food items
There are other items, that are not food, that can be composted at home. Greens and browns, such as grass clippings and dry leaves are two of the most common items we compost. I also like to use cut grass to place around my garden plants to help prevent weeds.
Newspapers and coffee filters are two of the common non food items that I compost at home.
Plant grazing animal manure such as cattle, horse, and chickens that are on the homestead can be composted. Composting animal manure properly is very important if you are using it to feed plants.
Items not suitable for composting at home
There are some items that are not compost material.
Meat and animal scraps such as bones and fish, dairy products, pet wastes, weeds, and synthetic chemicals.
How to know when your compost is ready
Compost should be periodically turned to mix it up. Finished compost takes about 2-3 weeks if done properly and the food scraps turn into soil.
If the compost is not breaking down as expected, adding cut green grass can aid in the breakdown. On the other hand, if the compost pile is wet and smelly, adding brown elements such as newspaper and dried leaves will draw out the moisture.
When the compost on the bottom of the pile is dark soil and earthy, it is ready to use. You should not be able to identify and of the material in the soil.
- Use a compost starter to aid in breaking down the compost materials.
- Make sure the food scraps, cut grass or leaves are finely chopped before adding to the compost bin. Larger scraps take longer to break down.
- Use a covered compost pail to collect scraps in to reduce the number of trips to the compost bin.
- Turn the compost often. This aids in speeding up the breakdown process by introducing air to the compost.
How to use your compost material
- Generally speaking, if you are composting, you likely have a use for it, such as fertilizing your garden or plants.
- Compost material can be worked into the garden area 2 weeks prior to planting to add nutrition to the soil.
- You can use your compost material to make your own potting soil.
- Use it to feed fall perennials.