You may be new to organic gardening, or you may be an old pro. I’ve been gardening for quite some time, but I really haven’t done a great job with making my own compost. I’ve always just bought it. (Shame, shame.) While I have never added chemicals or sprays to my garden, I’d like to do a better job this year and in the years to come of improving my soil the “right” way – with the stuff that nature has already provided me.
Making your own compost is a simple concept, but it’s not one of those things that you can make and be done with. It will take time and effort on your part (this is partially why I haven’t been more dedicated myself). It is definitely worth the wait once completed, however!
How to make compost:
The first technique when attempting to start your own compost pile is to gather together your discarded vegetable peels, dried leaves, and cut grass. You can place these in a compost bag. You will need to check the pile regularly and periodically add liquid to keep it moist.
The second technique is to decide on a suitable place on the ground in your garden for the compost pile, and then to gather the materials and put them there. You will literally just leave them there for nature to take it’s course and break them all down. This technique obviously takes a lot more time, possibly even years. But eventually nature will turn the pile into compostable material that can be used to fertilize your garden.
With either approach, you must check thoroughly and often. With the second technique, your pile is left in the open. You’ve got to make sure that no elements which are harmful to your garden and its plants are allowed onto the pile. If you have a pet dog, make sure he/she is not doing its business on or near your pile, you know?
Of course, there are a LOT of items that you can use in your compost pile. You’re not limited to leaves and grass! Here is a more extensive list of items you can add to your pile:
- Pine needles
- Chicken manure
- Rabbit manure
- Tea grounds (not the bags, just the grounds)
- Egg shells (crushed)
- Coffee grounds (not any bags, just the grounds)
- Wood ash
- Cooked rice
- Stale bread, tortillas, or pitas
- Nut shells (except for walnut shells, DON’T add those)
- Shredded newspaper
- Cow, horse, or goat manure
- Unpopped, burnt popcorn kernels
- Grapefruit rinds
- Old spices and herbs
- Houseplant trimmings
- Garden soil
- Blood meal
- Hair from your hairbrush
- Spanish moss
- Nail clippings
- Fish meal
- Dryer lint
- Shredded paper (like junk mail – don’t shred and add any plastic)
- Kleenex tissues
- Tree bark
- Pencil shavings
- Natural potpourri
- Used matches
- Grass clippings
- Dead leaves
- Sawdust (from wood that has not been treated, painted or stained)
- Smashed Jack O’ Lanterns
- Fur from your cat or dog brush
- Old flower arrangements
- Stale potato chips
- Brown paper bags (shredded or cut up)
- Veggie peelings (like potato peels, apple peels and cores, watermelon rinds, etc) – There is some debate about whether you should add onion peels and/or citrus peels, so if you feel unsure, don’t add them.
- Old or outdated seeds (you don’t want them sprouting though, ha ha!)
- Old beer
- Urine (yes, it’s true. The nitrogen in urine is fantastic for compost)
You’ll want to rotate, or aerate, your pile regularly to keep it “airy”. You can add worms (red worms specifically) to your pile to help speed up the composting process. You also want to keep a good balance of “brown” vs. “green” material. Green material is high in nitrogen. I think of it as the “wet”, or fresh stuff (kitchen scraps, fresh grass clippings, etc). Brown material is high in fiber. I think of it as the “dry” stuff (sawdust, dead leaves, etc). You also need to make sure that the pile does not dry out. You can read about that in much more detail HERE.
There you have it – the basics of composting!
Do you compost?
Would you ever urinate in your compost pile?