Composting: collecting organic waste, storing it and allowing it to decompose, then recycling it as soil fertilizer. It’s a dirty job. So, why would anyone actually do this? Several reasons, actually…
- It’s free fertilizer
- Takes the place of unnatural chemicals
- Yields healthier soil that retains moisture better, requiring less water
- Reduces the amount of waste in landfills
- Produces healthier plants with fewer pests
Sounds great. Now what?
Step 1: Get a container
If you want to keep your compost easily accessible in the kitchen, there are small counter composters available, but the outdoor models hold much more material. For the DIYers, you can simply repurpose a plastic container, bucket or an empty coffee can. Lids are important on all these options to maintain the right moisture levels, but also to keep pests out and stink in.
Step 2: Collect materials
Compostable materials come from many sources around the house, such as food items like eggshells, coffee grounds, tea leaves, fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, breads, pasta, rice, spices, and herbs. (No meat or fish — imagine the smell and flies!) Paper goods you can use include newspaper, paper towels, cotton balls, cardboard, junk mail, and other paper that’s not glossy or waxed. You can also include items from your yard, like grass clippings, leaves, weeds, vines, and small sticks.
Step 3: Promote decomposition
Moisture is your necessary, but fickle friend. Without it, the decaying process will be delayed — too much of it, and you’ll wind up with a slimy mess. It’s a good idea to consistently add diverse new materials to the mix, and stir/turn it every few days.
How do you know when it’s ready?
The process could take anywhere from a few months to a year, so be patient. Things decompose faster in warm temperatures, so the season will certainly affect the progress. You’ll know it’s ready when your compost looks and smells like very dark, rich soil. Yes, it’s a dirty job, but your garden — and the earth — will thank you!