Your Step-by-Step Guide on How to Make Compost to Enrich Your Garden
Composting at home can get a bad rap. Common misconceptions of home composting are that it's too complicated, it'll smell bad, and it's messy. These may be true if you compost the wrong way, but learning how to compost the right way is actually quite simple. Start with a layer of organic materials, add a dash of soil and a splash of water, and wait for your concoction to turn into humus (the best soil booster around!). You can then improve your flower garden with compost, top dress your lawn, feed your growing veggies, and more. Once you get your compost pile started, you'll find that it's an easy way to repurpose kitchen scraps and other organic materials into something that can help your plants thrive.
Types of Composting
Before you start, it's important to know that there are several types of composting. Here we're covering cold compost, hot compost, and vermicompost. Cold composting is as simple as collecting yard waste or taking out the organic materials in your trash (such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells) and then corralling them in a pile or bin. Over the course of a year or so, the material will decompose.
Hot composting requires you to take a more active role, but the return is that it's a faster process; you'll get compost in one to three months during warm weather. Four ingredients are required for fast-cooking hot compost: Nitrogen, carbon, air, and water. Together, these items feed microorganisms, which speed up the process of decay. In spring or fall when garden waste is plentiful, you can mix one big batch of compost and then start a second one while the first one "cooks."
Another type of compost is vermicompost, which is made with the help of worms. When these worms eat your food scraps, they release castings, which are rich in nitrogen. You can't use just any old worms for this. You need redworms (also called "red wigglers"). Worms for composting can be purchased inexpensively online or at a garden supplier.
What to Compost
Composting at home is a great way to use the things in your refrigerator that are a little past their prime, which helps reduce food waste. You can also compost certain kinds of yard waste rather than send them to the dump. Collect these materials to start off your compost pile right:
- Fruit scraps
- Vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Eggshells (though they can take a while to break down)
- Grass and plant clippings
- Dry leaves
- Finely chopped wood and bark chips
- Shredded newspaper
- Sawdust from untreated wood
Keeping a container in your kitchen, like this white ceramic compost bucket ($25, World Market), is an easy way to accumulate composting materials as you prep meals. If you don't want to buy one, you can make your own indoor or outdoor compost bin. For kitchen scraps that could start spoiling quickly, another option is to store them in the freezer until you are ready to add them to your larger outdoor pile.
How to Make Hot Compost
Every gardener is different, so it's up to you to decide which composting method best fits your lifestyle. Fortunately, no matter which route you choose, composting at home is incredibly easy and environmentally friendly. Plus, it's a treat for your garden. With just a few kitchen scraps and some patience, you'll have the happiest garden on the block.