June 14, 2024

Composting 101: How and What to Compost

Now is a great time of the year to start composting. Many people are tending to their gardens and getting their yard in shape for the summer. Composting is the process whereby biodegradable yard and food material is converted into a material that enriches soil. It’s a terrific way to recycle materials you would normally throw away and serves as an easy, cost-effective fertilizer for your garden. Here are some basic composting tips to get started:

Composting bin – You don’t have to have a bin or container to create compost, but it may make the process easier. The alternative to using a bin is to pick a spot in your yard to make a compost pile. Beware if you have heavy rainfall or are likely to have a lot of critters digging in the pile, as both of these things may ruin your compost. A basic bin should have a tight fitting lid, but may also have a trap door or drawer to collect the finished compost. If you are interested in other options, composters can range from spinning composters and hot composters to microbe and worm varieties. Do a little research to find what will be best for your needs.

What to compost – To get the best compost material, you’ll need to find a balanced ratio of carbon-rich to nitrogen-rich materials. This balance will help to prevent a stinky compost bin.

  • Carbon-rich or “brown” materials include: dead leaves, chipped branches, pinecones, straw, shredded newspapers or paper egg cartons, coffee grounds and filters, or nuts and shells.
  • Nitrogen-rich or “green” materials include: grass clippings (pesticide-free, of course), green foliage from your garden, egg shells, tea bags and tea leaves, fruit and veggie scraps
  • Items to avoid: pet poop, colored paper, meat and bones, diseased plants, and anything synthetic

Compost upkeep – Composting piles or bins work by maintaining a very warm temperature, usually around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you’ll want to turn over your compost fairly regularly to allow it to “mature.” Try to keep the material you compost small—doing so will compost the material faster. Another way to speed the process is to place the bin in a sunny location.

There are many composting resources available online, including a complete guide to composting. The beauty of composting is that it’s difficult to mess it up—you can experiment with lots of ingredients and be as involved or removed from the process as suits your schedule and needs.

Nathan Joynt works with Gaiam and Spiritual Cinema Circle – advocates for healthy sustainable living and inspirational movies.