You may have heard the word composting in conversation or when researching ways to live sustainably and reduce the amount of waste you generate.
Composting is the combination and management of certain waste materials so they can decompose. When mixed together, microbes in the soil will begin to break down the waste and create nutrient-rich material that allows plants to grow in its place.
It may sound like a complicated process, but the results are easy to achieve right in your backyard.
To properly compost, you really only need 3 elements: brown material to produce carbon (dead leaves, branches, twigs, even coffee filters or shredded paper), green material to produce nitrogen (grass clippings, leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps) and water.
Searching for carbon and nitrogen materials for compost online will give you a bevy of other options, as well.
The first step is to designate an area for your compost. It's recommended to pick a dry, shady area if possible and have it near a water source.
The size of a personal composting site should be 3 ft wide by 3 ft deep by 3 ft tall. You can build your own using wood, chicken wire, metal buckets, or buy your own bins online.
Have a mix that is 75 percent brown materials to 25 percent green materials and place them in alternate layers. This is something that will feel more familiar overtime when you have all the right materials sorted beforehand, preferably in a particular area of your house.
Make sure the compost stays moist so it can break down the organic matter, but don’t over-saturate it.
Turning over the soil depends upon different factors. If it's summer, do it about once a week with your garden tool of choice. In winter, every 3 to 4 weeks.
Test the compost to see if it needs watered by picking up a handful. It should feel as wet as a wrung-out washcloth or sponge.
By keeping up this process, you will start to see the compost turn into a soil-like matter over the first few weeks. You might even see a little bit of steam, but that means it’s working. You will know it's complete when you can’t identify any of the materials you started out with, and if it has the smell of soil.
But now what do you do?
There are many uses for the compost: sprinkle it around plants,make your own mulch, use it as top dressing for your lawn or garden, etc.
Compost the scraps in your kitchen to help create new life and food and keep the cycle going.