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Have you heard that all good gardeners need to compost but have no idea where to start? Honestly, I feel you, but you can beat those worries by learning the right composting tips immediately.
You might feel apprehensive about starting a compost.
The idea of taking typical kitchen waste and creating a “rich compost” that would “feed my garden all year” seemed bogus.
At best, it seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth. I could buy a bag of compost at my local gardening store for like $7, so what’s the big deal?
Finally, I gave in because I wanted to be like the cool gardeners with a compost bin, but then I learned – I really had no reason to be so worried. With the right composting tips, it doesn’t have to be brain surgery. If you can garden, you can compost.
15 Composting Tips for Beginners
1. You Can Compost Anywhere
Before I composted myself, I wouldn’t be able to tell you this, but now I know that you can compost anywhere you live.
Composting in the city is totally possible. You can have a worm compost (known as vermicomposting) under your kitchen sink. Vermicomposting is virtually odorless and perfect for those who want to compost in an apartment.
You don’t need a huge backyard or acreage to compost.
2. Don’t Spend a Fortune on a Compost Bin
Seriously. You don’t need to spend $100 on a compost bin. You don’t even need to buy a compost bin unless you find one used in your local marketplace.
Instead, try to make a DIY compost bin. You can give my $10 DIY compost bin a try!
3. Learn What Not to Compost First
Some people might tell you to learn what you can compost first, but I find it much easier to learn things not to compost.
Why is it easier?
Because there are MORE things that you CAN compost than things you CAN’T compost. So, by human nature, it’s easier to learn a smaller list than a longer one, right?
What are some examples of things not to compost?
- Dog & Cat Feces
- Dairy Products
- Diseased Plants
Make sure not to ignore these composting tips. Adding the wrong materials to your compost bin can do more harm than good. They can attract unwanted pests and smells.
4. Understand Composting Ratio
Perhaps one of the most essential parts of composting is understanding that you need a balance of green & brown materials. The proper composting ratio uses both of these materials.
Confused? Let’s take a closer look.
Green materials are nitrogen-rich, fresh waste, such as grass clippings, fruit scraps, vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and tea leaves. Brown materials are dry, carbon-rich items, such as dead leaves, hay, shredded leaves, and dead plants.
Understanding these differences is one of the most important composting tips to know. Remember that green materials decompose faster while brown materials are slower to rot yet provide fiber and carbon that are needed to create air pockets in the mixture.
You need both composting materials to decrease the risk of problems. For example, a stinky composting is typically a sign that you have TOO MANY green (nitrogen) materials and need more brown materials.
Aim for a 50:50 ratio of brown and green materials.
5. Find Out How Often Should Compost Be Turned
There is no perfect schedule for turning your compost. No one created a hard-fast rule on how often to turn your compost.
The more that you turn your compost pile, the faster it becomes a finished compost. Once the bin is full, you can turn the pile every 10-14 days.
6. Pick The Right Spot for Your Compost Bin
Every compost bin needs to be in the right location. Pick a spot that is level and well-draining. You might need to prop it up on bricks or pallets to let water flow out the bottom.
At the same time, your compost bin needs to be accessible year-round. I made that mistake by putting my compost bin at the edge of my property, but then in the winter, I didn’t want to walk out there when it was too cold.
It’s best to put your compost bin over bare soil rather than concrete. When water comes out of the compost bin, it feeds the worms waiting in the ground as well as other beneficial organisms.
7. Start With The Right Materials
When you start your compost pile, think of it like making a layered cake. You need to start with the right composting materials.
First, you want to start by adding brush, hay, or straw at the bottom of the bin. Then, add a 4-inch layer of brown materials along with a thinner layer of finished compost or garden soil.
Next, add a 4-inch layer of green materials along with another layer of garden soil.
Make sure you moisten each layer with a garden hose. Then, continue to alternate layers of green and brown materials until your bin is full.
8. You Can Compost in the Winter Too!
You don’t have to stop composting over the winter. If you can provide a shelter space with some insulation, the composting process can continue even as the winter temperatures drop down low.
9. Dice and Shred Your Materials For Faster Composting
If you don’t want to add extra time waiting for your finished compost, consider dicing, shredding, and slicing materials. Doing so helps to quicken the composting process. It creates more surface area for the enzymes and microorganisms to decompose.
10. Compost Needs Air Too
One of the main ingredients you need to have a successful compost is AIR. Seriously!
Aeration is crucial for the composting process. That’s why you need to turn your compost just like we discussed in tip #5.
Not only do you need to turn your compost, but you also need air holes that let air in and out. If you don’t have air entering and leaving your compost bin, it can become anaerobic, creating a slimy appearance.
11. Don’t Forget The Water
You need to add water to your compost to make that magic happen. There is no need to water daily, but as you add dry items you’ll need to make sure the bin is damp.
Make sure not to soak your compost. If you’re having trouble with your compost retaining water, consider adding a lid on your bin to reduce evaporation.
12. Learn How to Apply Compost to Your Garden
What’s the purpose of creating compost if you don’t plan to use it in your garden? There are several ways to use compost.
Here are a few examples.
- You can create a liquid fertilizer called compost tea with the finished product. All you have to do is steep a shovel-full in a 5-gallon bucket for 2-3 days. Then, pour it over your plants.
- Try spreading 2-3 inches of compost around flowers, trees, and shrubs to use as a mulch.
- You can fertilize your lawn by adding 1-3 inches to your grass and raking it evenly over the grass.
13. Don’t Spend a Fortune on Compost Activators
A compost bin is a living being, believe it or not. They contain live enzymes and microorganisms that act as compost activators. Activators turn everything you add to your bin into finished compost faster.
Activators contain protein and nitrogen, so they help the bacteria in the compost bin. It helps the microorganisms break down the organic matter.
You can purchase compost activators. All you do is mix a small amount into the water, pour it over your compost, mix it throughout, and wait for 10 weeks.
However, compost activators can be costly, and if you want to keep costs down, you can try alfalfa meal. It’s cheap and works quickly.
Here’s how it works.
Start by composting kitchen waste, then sprinkle your chosen activator, moistening with water. Turn the compost bin, and continue this process.
14. Composting with Worms Works
Nature gives us the best helpers for waste disposal – earthworms. Whether you want to practice vermicomposting in an apartment or toss in worms into your outside compost bin, worms are a boon to any gardener.
Worms love to be in compost bins, eating all of the materials that you add, turning waste into compost. Don’t be afraid to add worms in your compost bin.
You can buy worms online or send your kids out on a worm hunt. Kids love this mission!
15. Use All of The Free Resources to Compost
You might be surprised at how many different things you have in your home that you can compost. When you follow composting tips, you’ll find that there are SO MANY items you can toss into your bin.
- Paper towel rolls
- Toilet paper rolls
- Paper bags
- Cotton clothing
- Shredded leaves
- Dryer lint
Learn more about gardening in my new e-book!
Remember These Composting Tips
Creating a compost pile doesn’t need to be overwhelming. The composting benefits far outweigh any of the cons that might come with it.
It takes between 6-12 months to create finished compost. By remembering these composting tips, your first experience will be a positive one. Soon, you’ll have fresh compost to spread over your garden beds.