Every gardener knows that the "black gold" from a compost pile is a thing of beauty. This amazingly fertile soil is actually nature's way of making something out of nothing — compost is the end result of the natural decomposition of organic brown and green waste. Kitchen scraps provide the easiest source of green waste: banana or potato peels, used coffee grinds and filters, the odds and ends of cut up vegetables or the skins of onions. Eggshells are a great source of potassium for the compost heap, but leave out acidic fruits like oranges and lemons (the acids in those will kill the healthy bacteria that turn the compost into rich garden soil). Compost isn't all green: brown waste is the backbone of the compost pile. Every Krazy Coupon Lady has plenty of newspapers to use for brown material, but cut grass clippings, leaves, twigs and cardboard will also do the trick.
What you'll need to get started
- Large container or section of land to house your compost pile
- Green waste
- Brown waste
- Shovel or hand spade
Build your heap
Allocate a well-draining section of land to serve as the foundation for the compost heap. The ideal size for composting is 3×3 feet, as the heat created from a pile this size will kill any undesirable seeds that may have made their way into the pile. A smaller-sized heap will work just fine, and a large plastic bin is a great alternative that provides protection from squirrels or other curious furry creatures. A large lidded storage container (pick them up for cheap during or after the holidays) or a trash can with a locking lid can quickly be turned into a compact compost heap. Drill several small holes at least two inches apart on the bottom, sides and lid of the container to provide ample drainage. Feeling crafty? A DIY compost bin can be made with salvaged wood pallets.
Add the right stuff
A properly mixed compost pile will never smell foul. Follow the rule of adding three parts brown to one part green to create a compost heap that will most efficiently turn waste into pay dirt. Layer the brown and green waste as you add it to the pile to ensure that there are no large clumps of green waste. A compost heap is a living thing; too much green waste will throw off the delicate balance of the microbes doing the dirty work. Feel free to add a spritz of water to the mix. You'll want the compost to be slightly damp but never soaked (like a well wrung-out sponge).
Mix it up
Since a healthy breakdown process requires lots of air, use a shovel or hand spade to turn over the soil in your compost pile at least once a week to incorporate air into the mix and break up any pockets of green waste that may have formed. The more you stir the pile, the quicker the brown and green waste will break down into luscious garden soil. If you are composting in a trash can with a locking lid, feel free to turn that baby on its side and give it a few rolls in the yard.
A healthy compost pile will produce garden ready soil in around 3-6 months. Once your compost pile has turned into rich black soil, it's time to harvest what you need and add it to the garden. The remaining compost can stay in the pile and serve as the foundation for future composting.
This is a guest post by Vanessa from Dallas, TX
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