How Do I Compost?

In the quest for Green Living and leaving the least amount of waste behind, composting is the ultimate in recycling! If you ask “how do I compost,” then here is your guide.

The benefit to a compost pile is twofold – you eliminate waste AND create fertilizer/soil additive for the rest of the yard and garden. You do not need a container or bin – simply have a pile in the yard that you dig into the ground!

There are some basic principles in composting that are simple to follow:

• Do not add protein to a compost pile. Proteins include meat and animal products. The only animal-based ingredients that are okay to add are clean and dried eggshells and hair or fur of humans or animals.

• Do not add fats to a compost pile. Fats include oils, butter, gravies, sauces, etc. If a vegetable has been steamed with water only, it is fine. But as soon as you add butter, a sauce or mix it with meat of any kind, it is no longer a candidate for decomposition.

• A compost pile must have multiple ingredients and the greater the variety, the better.

• Adding some soil to the compost accelerates decomposition because it adds in necessary micro-organisms to transform the pile from waste to garden gold.

• The more you ‘turn’ the pile, the faster it decomposes. Turning the pile is merely adding air by digging with a shovel and turning the refuse over and over while chopping it into smaller pieces.

• Do not add more than 2 inches of any one ingredient at a time or you will risk ‘choking’ the compost pile. If you have a lot of one item (say a lot of grass clippings), place a side pile of that ingredient next to the compost pile and add it over time in appropriate amounts.

Kitchen refuse is fabulous for a compost pile. Potato peels, coffee grinds, orange rinds, banana peels, strawberry tops and basically any uncontaminated part of fruits and vegetables. Add hair from your haircut (not colored or permed hair though!) and if you have your dog groomed, the pile of fur is a great addition. But not dog poop!

Once the compost ‘smells’ like soil, it can be used. Note that using compost that is not ‘cooked’ (fully decomposed) can harm the garden. If turned every day and comprised of small, consistently sized ingredients, compost can be ready within a few weeks. It is also a good idea to have multiple piles – one that is ‘cooking’ and others that you can add to.

To use the compost, add it as a top dressing on plants or mix in with backfill soil when planting. Plants that receive annual additions of compost perform very well as they are receiving the ultimate organic fertilizer. And you have done the ultimate in recycling!