Composting in your own backyard

Composting in your Backyard

You’ve heard about Composting and all of the benefits, and you’ve heard that you can do it in your own back yard. But you also heard that it can become a smelly mess, so you don’t want to screw this up.

I am here to help!  You can make great quality compost to reduce your waste, benefit your soil and reduce your carbon footprint all in your backyard.

The nice thing is Compost and decomposition is a natural process.  The microorganisms already present in your soil and on the materials you are composting do the work for you, you just get involved to speed up the process, or to create a compost that is specific to your needs in the garden.

Compost can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.  But the 4 basics that every compost system needs are: Green Materials, Brown Materials, Water and Air.

As long as you have a good mixture of Green Materials, Brown Materials in the pile, allow air around the pile or turn the pile occasionally to create air spaces, and make sure it’s adequately wet you’ll have a great smelling compost in no time.

  • Green Materials
    •  Stuff that’s still alive and wet, food scraps, grass clippings, manure etc…
    • This is the material with a high nitrogen content that is the fuel for the decomposition process.
  • Brown Materials
    • Stuff that is dry and dead, straw, leaves, wood chips etc…
    • This is the material with a high carbon content that is the sponge of material that creates the stable decomposed Humus material we are looking for.
      • In your backyard, keep a stockpile of Brown materials from the fall to add to the pile every time you add some food scraps.
  • Water
    • Microorganisms  in the Compost pile are what is responsible for decomposing everything.  They need water to survive and thrive.
    •  A compost material has enough water in it when you squeeze the material and only 1 drip of water escapes your hands.  If water is pouring out, it’s too wet and you run the risk of filling up all the air spaces in the pile, and drowning out the oxygen loving (aerobic) microorganisms you want, and promoting the microorganisms that do not need air (anaerobic).  And this is not a good thing as the anaerobic ones produce awful smells and don’t make a healthy compost.
  • Air
    • Those Microorganisms also need air to survive.
    •  We want to make sure that they have access to air in whatever way possible to avoid our pile going anaerobic (meaning breaking down with no oxygen) and smelly.  We can make sure the pile has enough air by:
      • Ensuring that the sides of the pile are exposed to air (either through slats in our container, or a pile in the middle of the yard with access to the wind all around it)
      • Adding Bulking agents (big twigs, wood chips etc…) that hold open air spaces throughout the pile
      • Turning the pile incorporates air throughout the pile and fluffs it up.  If you smell something funky always turn the pile, it needs air.

Other things to think about

Turning Your Compost Pile – You can turn it if it starts to get smelly, if it’s too wet, or if it gets too hot (too hot to touch on the inside of the pile),

Picking a container – Your set up should optimize these 4 things will be a subject for a blog post for another day. But, if you are thinking about these 4 things you will end up with Compost!   You can play around with these 4 things to perfect how you want to use your pile, or how fast you want to compost.

Hot Composting – If you want to make sure that you kill weeds seeds or pathogens in your compost pile.  (Not necessary if you don’t compost meat, and are careful about not adding weed seeds or pet wastes).  You need to balance these same 4 ingredients, but you’ll want to make sure your pile is at least 1 cubic meter big so it holds in the heat, and get a Compost thermometer from our store to make sure it hits 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius for at least three days to ensure that weed and pathogen kill!

Trench Composting – Burying your food scraps in the garden and letting the soil break it down is also a completely legitimate way to reduce your waste and put your food scraps to use.

As always,  I love answering composting questions.  So feel free to message me with specific questions!

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