Have you ever considered putting your food scraps to good use by composting them? It’s not as complicated as you may think. Composting is an economical way to recycle food and plant waste and provide a little extra TLC to your garden.
How to get started
First, decide on the type of container to use. There is a wide variety to choose from – indoor vs. outdoor, self-composting vs. ones that require more attention. Once you’ve identified your perfect composting container, it’s time to start adding the right combination of ingredients.
Four important ingredients: Browns, Greens, Air, and Water
Let’s start with the two basic types of organic matter for your compost pile – brown things and green things. You’ll want two or three times as many browns as greens in your compost pile to keep it from smelling. These brown ingredients include torn up paper (as long as it's not coated, it’s good to “grow”), fallen leaves, straw, twigs, or even coffee filters…anything that is ‘non-living.’
Now for the greens…this is where the ‘living’ items come in. Fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, even leftover plain pasta or the rest of that brown rice in the fridge…just avoid meat, dairy, and bones, as they will attract pests and flies.
Next, you need to add a little air. Be sure to ‘turn’ your compost pile about once a week to incorporate the air it needs to “cook” and produce that wonderful rich soil even faster.
And last but not least, every compost pile needs just the right amount of moisture to keep the process going. Here’s how you’ll know if your compost pile has the correct amount of water:
H2O…Hold 2 One…you should be able to hold a handful of your compost to squeeze out just one drop of water! That is the perfect H2O content.
Layering, aerating and waiting
One of the easiest ways to maintain the right balance between green and brown items is to layer them. Place a nice layer of brown items in your composting container followed by a smaller layer of green items. The brown items help absorb excess moisture while the green items provide the moisture and bacteria to get the job done.
If things start to stink
Unpleasant odors are caused by one of two things: too much moisture (i.e., too much green matter) or insufficient oxygen for the bacteria. So if your composting pile smells foul or rancid, add more brown to the mix. And then, be sure to turn the pile over to incorporate fresh air and oxygen. This will breathe life (pun intended) into your bacteria, allowing them to get back to work.
A few composting no-no’s
- Avoid all dairy products, meat, and bones, as they attract unwanted pests.
- Never add pet waste to your compost pile.
- Citrus peels are fine, but avoid high amounts of fruit because they can upset the pH balance.
- Avoid large quantities of garlic. Since garlic is a natural antibiotic, it may disrupt the bacterial activity that is actually working for you.
How to know when it’s ready to use
The easiest way to find out if your compost is ready is to plant something. Bury a few bean seeds ½” beneath the surface to see if they sprout and grow. If so, that’s a good indication that your compost is ready to use. If nothing happens within 3-5 days, your compost pile needs a bit more TLC. 🙂
With a little practice, you’ll be well on your way to having a thriving compost pile that will provide nourishment and life to your indoor plants or outdoor soil.