When you start growing your own produce, compost becomes worth its weight in gold. It's dense, nutrient rich soil that helps give your plants the natural fertilizer they need to grow and produce for you. In the wild, this process happens naturally, as the leaves that fall to the ground slowly break down and support the next generation of plants. Depending on the forest, this can take weeks to a matter of years. On your homestead, you can speed it up a little. But before we get into the how-to, I want to cover the why.
- It's easy to start composting
- It's good for the environment
- It'll help your garden thrive
The different types of composting binsThere's a few different ways to create compost effectively. The first, is what we used to call the compost heap. It's exactly what it sounds like, an area on your property where you toss your waste scraps. Ours is behind the shed to keep it a little out of sight, and using some old treated pine fencing, we built a rough "U" shaped area that's about 2 meters by 2 meters. Here we simply toss our lawn and plant clippings, as well as any organic food scraps. The downside to this method is the birds, squirrels and rats love the food source, and in some cities and suburbs you're not actually allowed to have an open compost heap like this. We're pretty content to let the animals do their thing, and our dogs keep most of the bigger pests at bay. The second technique is to create a compost bin. All you really need is a large enough container that has a few ventilation holes, and you can toss your organic waste straight in. Plastic garbage cans work really well, as long as you drill a few holes in the top, the sides, and in the bottom so there's enough air getting in to your compost. The biggest benefit of this method is that any critters are going to have a tough time getting into your scraps. Now if you want to go a little fancy, you can also purchase composting systems from your local home improvement or gardening store. It will cost far more than a simple plastic bin, but often these systems will have a tumbling system, which allows you to better aerate and speed up the decomposition process, so you get your compost faster. Oh, and of final note is perhaps one of the most interesting compost systems. The worm farm. It's much more compact than a traditional composting system, but it does require a little more maintenance to ensure your worms are healthy and thriving. Ours we bought specially for this purpose, but there are many guides online to building your own worm farm if you're so inclined. Just be prepared to have a steady supply of shredded newspaper, food scraps, and of course your worms to make this technique work. A worm farm actually creates some of the most perfect fertilizer you could hope for in your garden, and is well worth the effort to create.
What to actually compostOnce you've got your compost bin sorted, it's time to start composting. This can often be a little trial and error if you've never composted before. I tend to follow a simple rule when it comes to sorting our kitchen scraps into the compost pile, which is: If it grew in a garden, you can compost it. Here's a few more items that go great in your compost pile:
- Grass clippings and leaves
- Coffee grounds and tea leaves
- Fruit and vegetable peels
- Weeds (though nothing that's gone to seed)
- Shredded paper (newspaper too)
- Meat and dairy products
- Human or pet waste
- Chemically treated wood Bones from cooking
- Fats and oils
- Cooked food