Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Start the Perfect Compost Bin

“Nature does nothing uselessly” -Aristotle

Composting is a lot like gardening in that we are taming a natural process (decomposition) to use to our advantage. If you take the time to set up a proper bin from the beginning, you’ll make “the taming” easy as pie. A dark crumbly mud pie, of course.

First, find a perfect spot in your yard for the bin. This should be a somewhat shady corner of your yard (and I’m talking less-sunlight shady, not lawless- black market shady, because that is not a good place to compost). Set an open-bottom bin on the bare ground to welcome in all the good bugs, fungus, and bacteria.

Next, add one to two feet of leaves. If you’d like to speed up the decomposition you can shred the leaves into smaller pieces, a task I usually give to my husband because the man loves his weed eater almost as much as he loves me. The shredded leaves are a good base to the pile.

If you are one of those impeccable-backyard people without a single leaf remaining (la-tee-dah), consider using shredded paper or dead plant material broken into small pieces. Or you could offer to rake your neighbor’s yard in exchange for some leaves.

On top of the leaves add a shovel of good garden soil. Not the bagged, sanitized stuff but the right-from-the-ground, full-of-life soil. This will add micro and macro organisms to help kick start your pile.

Now you have a basic compost bin. You can start adding any plant based material including vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and weeds without seeds. To have an odor-free pile bury food waste each and every time it’s added.

Repeat after me: always bury food waste, always bury food waste…

Think about what you want out of your bin. If you need compost in three months, turn your pile once a week. Turning adds air which heats up your pile and speeds up decomposition. If you have patience and don’t mind waiting longer for finished compost, just turn the pile a few times a year.

Once you start the bin, nature will take over for the hard part. Just keep adding material and you will soon be harvesting a “delicious” soil amendment any garden will appreciate.

For more composting info peruse the blog or visit our website.


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