How To Start A Compost In Your Backyard
As Tommy mentioned many times, compost and compost tea help plants grow. Here’s some basic information to help you get started in composting.
According to the EPA, 20-30% of what we throw away is food scraps and yard waste. These items should be composted. Doing so, keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Additional benefits of composting include
- Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
All composting requires (3) basic ingredients:
- Browns: absorb moisture & provide structural strength with material such as dead leaves, branches, twigs, paper, and cardboard.
- Greens: provide nutrients via colorful wet material like grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
- Water: to keep the good bacteria growing.
Your pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. The browns provide carbon for your compost, the greens provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down all of that organic matter.
A good way to start a backyard compost pile is to select a dry, shady spot near a water source. Then begin with your first layers –
- Pile chunky material like, branches & woody stems for good airflow as the bottom layer.
- Make a well in the layer & put the greens in it. Keep food scraps away from the outer edges.
- Cover the greens with a layer of browns so that no food is showing. This keeps insect & animal pests out of the pile.
- Keep adding layers of greens and browns (like a lasagna).
- Every time you add green material; add brown and moisten dry materials as they are added to keep a good moisture balance.
Now you can’t compost everything so here’s a brief list to use as a guide –
What to Compost
- Fruits and vegetables
- Eggshells, Nut Shells
- Tea bags, Coffee grounds, and Filters
- Shredded newspaper and Cardboard
- Yard trimmings and Leaves
- Grass clippings and House Plants
- Hay and straw
- Sawdust and Wood Chips
- Cotton and Wool Rags
- Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
- Hair and fur
- Fireplace ashes
What Not To Compost
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs – Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
- Coal or charcoal ash – Might contain substances harmful to plants
- Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs* – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants – Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils* – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Meat or fish bones and scraps* – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)* – Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
- Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides – Might kill beneficial composting organisms
Once your compost pile is established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury the fruit & vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material.
If you like, you can cover the compost pile with a tarp to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years.
Compost, rich in organic material, is the fastest way to healthy, productive plants that will yield beautiful flowers and bountiful garden veggies. We hope you’re inspired to try composting and take control of what you spread by making it yourself.