How to Get Started With Composting
Composting is a great way to get some nice fertilizer for your springtime garden as well as using up some of the scraps that you have in your home and yard. This is an environmentally friendly activity, and fall happens to be a great time to start composting, because you likely have a big pile of leaves to add to the heap. If you’ve never composted before, you will need to read up on the benefits of the different types and sizes of compost bins. Once you have chosen a bin, it’s time to start filling it up. Here are some tips on getting started with composting using your fallen leaves:
- Run the leaves through your mulching mower
Your leaves need to be shredded for best results, so rake them into a pile and then simply mow over them. Empty the mower bag into the compost heap or bin, and this will get you off to a great start.
- Add “green” composting material
If you started off with a full lawnmower bag from mowing the lawn, go ahead and dump that in the compost bin. Grass clippings are a good green material, as are fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds and tea leaves. Pick up fallen apples, pears or other fall fruit from the ground and toss those in. Rabbit and chicken manure count as green composting material, so if you have a source for that, add it to your bin. If you haven’t weeded your garden in a while or you have dying or dead vegetable plants, you can use them as well.
- Add more “brown” composting material
While you might have plenty of brown material from your leaves, you can add other fibrous material as well. These would include dead flowers from your garden, pieces of cardboard, sawdust and old hay. If you have a pet rabbit, hamster or other small vegetable- and grain-eating animal, you can add their old bedding to the heap. The idea is to layer brown and green composting material, using more brown than green, if possible.
- Water the pile
During the fall and winter, if the weather is dry, you may need to water your compost pile more often. In general, it should be as wet as a damp sponge. If you were to pick up a handful of leaves and grass, you should be able to squeeze out a few drops of water. When you are starting your bin, add some water to each layer as you build up your heap, then water periodically from that time period on.
- Turn the pile less frequently during cold weather
You’ll have to use experimentation to figure out exactly how often you should use a rake or pitchfork to turn the pile. If you feel the top of the compost heap, it should feel warm or hot. If it does and there is no smell, then it’s likely that bacteria is doing what it’s supposed to in order to digest the compost. If it smells sour or feels cool to the touch, you will need to add more green and brown composting material and turn it, pulling the inside material toward the outside. During warmer weather, you will want to turn it more frequently in order to evenly distribute the organic material, but in the winter, turning it disrupts the heat in the middle of the pile, so you won’t want to do it very frequently. Start with turning your pile every two weeks during the cool weather and if you notice a sour smell, do it more frequently. During the summer, start with weekly turnings and increase the frequency if necessary.
- Know what not to add to the compost heap
You don’t want to add meat, animal products, plastic, synthetic fabrics, feces from any animal (including humans) that ingests meat or any animal products, pasta, bread, glossy paper or kitty litter. You can add some paper that isn’t glossy, teabags, eggshells and animal hair in small quantities.
Composting is a good way to reduce the amount of waste you put outside each week, as well as to have a natural fertilizer for your garden. Be sure to check your town’s regulations, as composting is banned or regulated in some areas.