Composting Basics

Composting can be a very helpful step in reducing the amount of waste going into our landfills every day. It’s both good for the environment and for your garden.

Composting can be a very helpful step in reducing the amount of waste going into our landfills every day. It’s both good for the environment and for your garden.

Their are many different approaches to composting such as building a simple “compost pile” in your back yard  to “ditch composting”  and even using worms for  composting known as  “Vermicomposting.” What we will do here is give you the basics, enough information to get you started in making your own compost pile. To start, composting can be as easy or as complex as you want to make it. It really takes very little time or money to do and you only have to work with it 2 or 3 times a year depending on the type you chose.

When creating your compost pile their are two main types to chose from. A “hot pile” or a “cold pile”.

A “hot pile” is a pile that has been built with the best combinations of, moisture, air, and materials in a properly combined mix of carbon and nitrogen. The reason it is called a “hot pile” is because it will reach over 140 degrees F at its center due to the efficient work of the microbes within.

This type of composter will break the raw materials down the fastest, giving you good, workable compost sooner.

A “cold pile” is generally a pile of materials that are not combined in a proper manner, resulting in slower decomposition. This style of composter will still work but may take a very long time to become good compost. In fact this is the style most “Would be” composters end up with due to the lack of properly working the pile and finally giving up on the whole composting idea.

To get the simple steps to creating a “hot” compost pile please go to the “Building a hot compost pile” page.

The tools you will need are very simple.

  • Garden fork to turn the pile.
  • Shovel to remove the finished compost.
  • Wheel barrel to transport the finished compost.
  • A sifting screen to screen out all the materials that haven’t broken down.
  • aeration tool to ensure that the pile is getting enough oxygen through-out.
  • thermometer to check the temperature in the center of the pile.

Their are a few things to remember when starting a compost pile. For example you will want to avoid putting it next to any buildings because composters do get some help from small insects that like to eat the materials within the pile, and we don’t need them in our homes.

The best place to put the composter is somewhere that is close enough to easily get to. You want this because if the weather turns bad or your area gets alot of snow fall, you will be more inclined to throw the kitchen scraps out than walk all the way to the back of the yard to get to the pile.

On the other hand, you also want the composter to be out of site and out of smell. (although a properly maintained composter gives off very little odor.)

Many people put the pile behind a shed or in the back of an existing garden to help keep it hidden.

Although there are many items that you can put into your compost pile, there are a couple that shouldn’t go in. You should never throw meat into the compost pile because the smells that it creates as it breaks down is bad and will attract unwanted animals. You should also never throw any chemicals into the compost or garden as they could harm animals and plants.