Create Your Own Compost

Emmaline Harvey
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Adding compost to your garden beds or lawn is like adding icing to a cake – it makes everything it touches better. Creating your own compost reduces household and landfill waste, encourages healthy biological activity in your yard, and enhances your soil for ideal gardening conditions.

Learn how to build your own compost bin, or select a tall plastic garbage bin to make one for yourself. Drill some holes on both sides for ventilation. 

Pick a place in your yard to house your composter — one that’s slightly shady to prevent the compost from overheating or creating a fire hazard.

Layering about 75 percent green materials (yard waste) and 25 percent brown materials (kitchen waster) is the first step to creating your own fresh compost. The gradual breakdown of these materials will cause the internal temperature of your pile to reach up to 140 degrees.

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For yard waste, save all the fresh grass cuttings from your sprouting spring lawn, along with any plant clippings or pine straw.

The best and most commonly used ingredient in homemade compost piles is fallen leaves. They have a high carbon to nitrogen ratio, making them ideal for composting as they break down quickly.

Kitchen waste includes anything organic, such as banana and orange peels, apple cores, potato peels or egg shells. If you have the materials readily available, you can even add a scoop of soil to your compost to encourage microorganisms to flourish, and add a sparse amount of fertilizer to introduce more nitrogen into the compost.

Turn the materials inside your composter once or twice a week. If you’ve built a compost box, use a shovel or pitchfork for this task. If you’ve repurposed a garbage can, secure the lid using bungee cords and roll the can around on its side a few times to accomplish the same goal.

Once you’ve turned the pile, water the compost once a week. This is especially important in drier climates.

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Some gardeners opt to not use a compost container at all, and instead section off a shady corner of their yard to create cold compost piles.

Cold compost piles are convenient for their low maintenance. You can add materials as you have them, in no particular order, and don’t ever need to turn the pile.

The decomposition process can take closer to a year instead of the month or two you’ll see with hot compost, however. Cold compost piles are also susceptible to weeds or disease that the heat from hot compost kills off.

Compost that is ready to use in your garden will be dark brown, free of bad odors, and you should be unable to identify any ingredients.

Use it in your garden beds to bring added nutrition to the soil of your veggie garden, or rake it directly into your lawn to encourage lush grass growth.

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