Most of us think nothing of putting all our trash into a bag, and setting it out on the curb. With the obvious exception of recycling, very few of us have ever thought about doing more than that by way of separating our trash. However, if you live in an area where you have to pay for your rubbish removal, chances are pretty good that you're already a maverick at composting.
Aside from the obvious gardening benefits, which we will talk about soon, learning to compost your kitchen scraps will cut down tremendously on your trash every week, and your footprint on the Earth in the process.
There are some rules when it comes to what you may and may not add to the compost pile however, and we will talk about a few of the major do's and don'ts to composting.
What Can Go Into the Pile?
When you really start getting the hang of this, you're going to be truly amazed at how significantly you can decrease the amount of trash you put out every week. Something as simple as a milk container by the counter or kitchen sink can become a compost holder.
Into your compost pile you may throw all of your vegetable peels and ends, leftovers of vegetables, fruit cores, peels and anything that goes bad from either the fruit or vegetable group as well. Coffee grinds, tea bags, coffee filters, tissues, and paper napkins are all safe to put in your compost pile. Eggshells, cooked leftover eggs, raw eggs, and bread as well are suitable for composting. Obvious additions like grass clippings, leaves, twigs, and old potting soil can add great nitrogen and variety to the pile.
One item you do not want to add to your compost pile are any kinds of meat products or leavings. If you eat meat, continue to put that into your normal trash. Meat will attract maggots and flies, neither of which you want in your compost.
Scraps Are Gathered, Now What?
You'll want to have a kind of enclosure to keep the compost in one place. This does not need to be anything fancy or expensive, although there are some really wonderful compost bins on the market that claim to help speed up the compost process. For myself, I have always used wooden pallets tied together, and although it takes a bit of time, the compost comes out fantastic and rich.
As you add to your pile, you'll want to turn it, and be sure that it's getting enough moisture; but not too much which will bog it down. The temperature in a compost pile is among the most important things to maintain. One clear indication that your pile is either to hot or too cool is when you begin to see plants growing from it. This does happen from time to time, though as a rule, if plants are growing out of the compost pile, it is either too cool, or is not being turned enough.
How Long Does it Really Take to Make Compost?
You simply cannot be in a hurry if you are using conventional methods of making compost. Even if you are diligent about turning and watering it, you'll still need a few months for things to break down. I typically feed mine, turn it, and forget about it for the first entire season when I start it. By the next growing season, if I've done my homework and have had enough to put into the pile, I should have some nice compost available to mix into my garden soil.
Some commercial composting devices will promise to do the work faster, and that is okay; just be sure of what you're buying before you spend your money. Often claims of cutting the time in half, or giving some other severely shortened time frame for completion, cannot deliver in the end.
Like all things in nature though, doing it right does take some time. In the meanwhile, use store-bought compost if you must to amend your soil during the first season. This will give you a chance to learn exactly what your soil will need, and how best to provide it during your first growing season.