Composting 101

April 9, 2017

Composting 101

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I always thought you could only compost if you lived out in the country.  Then, a couple of my friends were talking about their compost and how they were about to use it in their vegetable gardens.  Both live in town.  So, I thought why not!

I’ll tell you from beginning to end how to compost.  It’s super easy.

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I started by reading articles and it really didn’t seem that hard.  I bought my compost bin.  Put it in an inconspicuous place by our back door by the alley and thought ok, this is not going to work.  But, it did!

 

Composting 101

Here’s how you start a compost

  1. Start by purchasing a compost bin, a special thermometer and some compost starter.  The one I have unbuckles and it was very easy when time to use the end product.

2. Set your bin somewhere behind or to the side of your house.  Not in the front, your neighbors won’t appreciate that.  And unfortunately, the compost bin, no matter what you get isn’t very pretty.  Doesn’t really add curb appeal.

Tips for bin placement:

Look for a level area over soil or lawn, not on concrete.  It can be in a sunny or shady spot depending on your climate.  Here in Texas, where we get blasted by the sun, I chose a shady spot.

It also needs to be convenient or you’ll forget about it.  Ours is behind our back door by the alley.  I can just lean out the door and dump veggie scraps or whatever (we’ll get into what to use in a minute).

Think about your neighbors.  I clearly did not put it up next to the neighbor’s fence.  I don’t think they even know I have one.

3.  Now, start composting.  Start off with a good layer of grass clippings.  Next time the lawn is mowed, rather than dumping the grass clippings in the dumpster, put them in the compost.  After the clippings are put in, dump a layer of your compost starter (see bottom of post) over the top and use the hose to wet it down.  Don’t forget to stick your thermometer in.  Most people probably do not use a compost starter, but it speeds things up and it worked for me so I’ll keep using it.

The amount of clippings you have may fill to the top.  Don’t worry about that.  In the next two weeks it will decompose to nearly half that.

On top of your grass clippings and compost starter you can start layering your food scraps.

Here’s what you can put in:

  • veggies
  • fruit
  • egg shells
  • hair from your hairbrush  (sounds gross but yes)
  • flowers (your poor roses that just died, throw them in)
  • coffee grounds
  • newspaper (shredded is best)
  • cardboard (you can do this, but it takes a long time to decompose so I wouldn’t recommend–just recycle it)
  • paper without lots of dye
  • tea bags (remove the staples)
  • grass clippings
  • leaves-small are best (we tried not to dump our Magnolia tree leaves)

Composting 101

What you CANNOT put in:

  • meat
  • oils
  • dairy
  • lime  (pH too high apparently)
  • colored paper
  • toxic materials (obviously)

4.  Keep layering. Every time the lawn is mowed, dump in the grass clippings, then a layer of compost starter and moisten with the water hose.  Keeping dumping in your scraps.

5.  The temperature will start to rise within a day when it starts to “cook”.  If you were to stick your hand down into it, you would notice that the compost will be hot.  I know I’m a nerd, but it’s fun to watch.  The compost thermometer that I used would tell me if it was in the right temperature range.  This gauge shows you if you’re in the right range.

6.  Turn it.  When you notice that the temperature starts to drop, it’s time to mix it.  The best way, is to take it all out, mix it and put it back in.  We never did that. I just asked my super strong husband to do it.  He would take the shovel and turn the dirt over.  It was always neat to see that the compost at the bottom had turned into a rich soil.

Composting 101

Tips:

  • You can have a cute bucket in your kitchen that you have next to your cutting board.  As you’re cooking, you can throw your veggie and fruit scraps as well as egg shells in there.  At the end of the day, just dump it in your compost.  Easy peasy.
  • Don’t worry when you run out of compost starter.  Once your compost starts working you won’t need it anymore.
  • Don’t forget to check your temperature gauge every so often to make sure it’s working.
  • Have everyone in the family participate.  Get your kids to throw their apple cores and banana peels in.  They’ll get a kick out of it.
  • Stop throwing stuff in several months before planting.  You don’t want food scraps in your garden!  Many people have 2 bins.  One for dumping and the other that is doing it’s thang and finishing up.
  • You want to make sure it stays somewhat moist.  If it dries out too much, it will stop working.  When you notice the temperature gauge drops, moisten it a bit and see if it goes back up by the next day.  If not, you need to turn it.

Composting 101

Using your compost

When the kids were off of school one day and we knew that the threat of frost was no longer, I took the kids to the nursery and bought all my favorite herbs and veggie plants.  I have an herb garden, but for the last couple of years, it’s been terrible.  My plants have been dying and I’ve hardly had enough left to cook with.  I really wanted this to work.

My son and I started by unbuckling the compost bin (a great feature for this one I discovered) and wheelbarrowing all the compost over to the bed.  We had enough dirt to fill a 14′ x 5′ bed!  I noticed it was rich, brown, has-to-be-fertile dirt.

Then, we mixed it all up with the ugly old dirt below with a hoe and got to planting.  It took awhile.  We had 35 plants.

After about 3 days planted, everything started to thrive. I can tell that it is going to work.  And the composting part was little work and totally worth it.

Finally,  like recycling let composting just be a part of your daily routine.  It’s easy and good for the environment as well.  Your plants will love you for it!

xo-Megan


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How to Compost

   
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