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7 Easy Steps to Backyard Composting

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Backyard composting is for the “DIYer” within us. This method allows you to transform organic waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer at home. A backyard compost pile can be as easy or involved as you want to make it. Maintain a super low maintenance pile just to keep food scraps out of the landfill or get acquainted with the intricate details and scientific techniques of composting.

 

You’ll need:

  • An outdoor space
  • A CompoKeeper (a kitchen compost bin for collecting food waste in the kitchen)

Optional

  • An enclosure (e.g. chicken wire, a tumbler or an outdoor bin with a lid) to retain heat and keep your pile neat.
  • A shovel, pitchfork or compost turner to mix you pile.
  • A tarp to keep moisture in and protect the pile from excessive rain.

Basic Steps

  1. Choose a location for your pile that’s far enough from your kitchen so faint odors won’t be noticeable but close enough for easy access.
  2. Decide whether you’re going to use an enclosure or outdoor tumbler/bin.
  3. Start your pile by layering 50% brown material (dead leaves paper, cardboard, wood and straw) over 50% green material (kitchen scraps and fresh grass clippings).
  4. Sprinkle the pile with water.
  5. Continue adding compostable waste from your kitchen compost bin in this layering fashion.
  6. Finished compost will be usable within 6-12 months (depending on the climate and your maintenance methods) and should be harvested form the bottom of the pile.
  7. Always remember to bury food scraps 6-12 inches below the surface or add a layer of leaves on top to keep away rodents and pesky bugs.

  how to make compost

Trash to Treasure:

 

Tips & Tricks:

In general:

  • Tumbler bins are less physically demanding, whereas open-bottomed bins give worms direct access to the pile.
  • For better heat retention, build your pile taller than it is wide.

How to make compost, easy:

  • If you’re not in a hurry to harvest your compost, just keep the bin full. Continue to layer your green and brown material, sprinkle with water on occasion, and relax. You’ll have compost within 6 months to a year.

How to make compost, quick:

  • Before starting your pile, loosen up the soil underneath to help earthworms work their way into the pile faster.
  • Chop all ingredients into smaller pieces.
  • Turn the pile more often for improved aeration.
  • Monitor and maintain moisture levels (aim for the dampness of a wrung-out sponge).
  • Add red wiggler worms to your pile for fast, better compost.

Troubleshooting:

  • Got Pests? Bury food scraps 6-12 inches below the surface of your pile or add a layer of leaves or garden soil over your kitchen scraps to keep rodents and pesky flies away.
  • It stinks? If your outdoor compost is smelly, there’s too much moisture. Add more browns and turn the pile to increase aeration.
  • Ice cold? In freezing winter temperatures, the composting process slows or stops. You can continue adding your compostables, but don’t expect compost to happen. In the spring, add 3 shovelfuls of earth from your garden and mix the materials together to reignite the life in your pile.

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