Organic waste is a large part of the total waste that we generate every day, contributing large volumes of waste to our landfills. Unfortunately, not only does this contribute to our growing global waste problem, but when our old banana peels and apple cores decay in landfills, they produce greenhouse gases like methane, which contribute to climate change .
Instead of throwing our organic waste away, a much better use for such waste is to compost it and turn it into rich nutrition for the soil in our gardens and landscapes. This is simply following the example of nature, recycling nutrients to renew the soil and support productive plant growth.
Through natural ecological processes, organic materials will break down over time without any effort on your part, so composting itself does not require any special skills. You really only need a place (such as a compost bin or in a pile) and sufficient time to allow your organic waste to break down.
Armed with a few tips, you can direct this process to become more efficient and occur at a faster rate.
Effective Composting 101
1. Getting the ideal ratio of browns and greens
The most ideal compost pile contains a ratio of 30 “brown” materials to every 1 “green” material .
“Brown” materials are carbon-rich, and consist of materials such as dried leaves, newspaper, straw or woodchips.
“Green” materials are nitrogen-rich, and consist of materials such as grass clippings (with no chemicals applied) and fruit and vegetable scraps. The smaller the materials are that you put in your compost pile, the more quickly they will break down into compost.
While it isn’t absolutely necessary to get this ratio correct to have things break down, getting close to this ratio will greatly assist the composting process. The bottom line here is that you want to add many more brown materials than green materials.
Too much brown, however, and your compost pile will take a very long time to break down, and if you have too much green material, your pile will smell bad and won’t “heat up” enough (the microorganisms and other critters that break down the organic matter won’t be active enough to create a hot environment where ideal decomposition takes place).
Saving your leaves in the fall or newspapers will provide a good source of brown materials for when you need to add them to your compost pile.
2. Adding water to the mix
Add water to your compost pile periodically. You only need enough water to keep things moist, similar to a wrung out sponge. This will help to keep the decomposition process active.
3. Aerating your compost pile
Turn and mix your compost pile every week or so to aerate it. A pitchfork works well for this, and a tumbler or spinner compost bin makes this process easy to do.
4. Avoiding pests and patogens
Do not add fats, oils, or meats to your compost pile! These things will attract animals and other pests that you do not want to attract to your compost pile. Do not add pet waste to your compost pile. Not only will this create an undesirable odor, but it will spread pathogens that you do not want to have in your garden.
5. Enhancing the composting process
You can facilitate the composting process by adding a compost starter or some soil from your garden, but these are not necessary.
6. Producing your own compost
Depending on how active your compost pile is, how much it is turned, and the moisture level, you can get compost generally within a few months to a year.
That’s it! You too can create rich compost for your garden or landscape, no biology degree required. It’s easy, and even children can help, giving them a better understanding of how nature works within their own backyards.
We also reduce our waste and our ecological footprint by composting. As more and more people compost their organic waste, we can really have a large positive impact.
Want to learn how to make your own compost bin? Check out our post on How to Make and Use a Compost Bin.