If you’ve always considered getting into composting but haven’t done so because you thought it would be a hassle, or too complicated to get started. Don’t sweat it. Don’t be intimidated by what you might read on the internet or in a garden book.
Composting is as simple as putting a banana peel at the bottom of the hole you dig to put your tomato plant in. Or after a scrambled egg breakfast, rinse and crumble up the egg shells, walk outside and sow them in your garden. It’s that easy.
For years, my wife and I have saved kitchen scraps, melon rinds, fruit peels, eggs shells and such, putting it all in a plastic bag sitting by the sink to take out at the end of the day. When we first started, we just dumped the bag in an unplanted corner of the garden. A few years later, I built a 4’x4’x1’ high box out of scrap wood to dump the compost bag in. Two years ago I built a three-bin compost bin for approximately $150. That’s how beneficial composting can become. I no longer buy garden fertilizers, I don’t need to. My garden gets all the nutrition it needs and then some from compost.
Composting areas can be as simple as a pile of kitchen scraps and yard waste in a corner of your backyard, to a three-bin set-up made out of cedar wood. If you’ve got some unused brick or cinder blocks, that will work to make a bin too. It’s up to you and whatever materials you have available or want to purchase. Keep your bin in full sun if possible and away from your house. Your compost - specifically the most raw stuff you just dumped - will attract insects, birds, squirrels and perhaps an occasional raccoon.
The basic elements to a compost pile or bin that creates ‘garden gold’ are: Ingredients, air, water
Ingredients: Basically, we’re talking kitchen scraps and yard waste.
- Egg shells
- Coffee grounds
- Melon rinds
- Banana, orange, apple peels
- Onion skin
- Celery tops and stalks
- Any other vegetable and fruit scraps
- Yard waste like grass clippings (but only if you don’t use chemical fertilizers)
- Dead flowers and leaves
- Pine needles
- You can even throw in some shredded newspaper (like the sports page, with a Hawks lose close one headline) once in awhile if it’s recycled paper and soy-based ink (most papers are these days)
What SHOULD NOT go into your compost
- Dairy products
- Meat scraps
- Food scraps like breads, cakes, crackers
- Diseased plants
Once you get your compost or bin going, turn it about one a month with a shovel or pitchfork, this helps break down the pile faster and prevents odor from developing. Turning the pile also puts more air in the mix. Remember, air is one of the basic elements to good compost, you don't want to keep your pile in a closed container either, it needs to breathe!
So we've got two of the three elements covered, 1. Ingredients, 2. Air. And then there's the third, water. Your compost pile needs to have some moisture to help with the breakdown process. Rainfall usually takes care of this for you, but if you get into a dry spell, sprinkle your pile with some water from a watering can or the garden hose. Moist is key here, just enough to 'feed' the pile, not sopping wet.
That’s it, that’s all there is to it! The nice thing is, you can make your pile as big or as small as you want it and you can start today with a banana peel. In as little as a couple months of saving your kitchen scraps, you can have some garden gold nutrition with very little effort for your flowers and veggies.