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Every year tons of organic matter ends up in landfills when there’s really no need. Composting is an excellent way to reduce what goes in the trash and, in the long run, you help yourself to healthier gardens. Here’s a little bit about composting, the first big step you’ll have to take and 6 top tips to get you set up as you begin your composting journey. 

Composting heap in garden

Understanding composting and its benefits

Composting naturally breaks down organic matter allowing it to be used to fertilize your homegrown garden. The key to creating beneficial compost is achieving a good carbon to nitrogen ratio. Carbon rich materials such as twigs, leaves, shredded brown paper, coffee grounds and filters and egg shells are just the tip of the carbon-based iceberg. Kitchen waste, manure, green leaves and grass clippings are healthy in nitrogen and provide building blocks for the creation of enzymes. Alternating these types of composting materials will help create a great base.

Composting heap of organic matter

Research how composting works in your community

Before getting started on home composting, check with your community to be sure personal composting is permitted. Many towns and cities provide collection programs and bins for composting. Do a little local community research before investing in an equipment. 

Use compost on your garden

Getting started

Once you get the go ahead to start composting at home, there’s a few things you’ll need to get set up. Here are our top tips:

1 - Choose the right location for your compost pile in your backyard. Putting it in an area that doesn't easily dry out is essential. Some sun is ok but ideally it would be in a mostly shaded area.

2 - Build a simple yet secure structure for your compost pile. Using chicken wire and wood will keep the compost in and scavengers out. Many websites sell moveable tumblers for compost if permanently committing an area of your backyard to a compost heap isn’t your thing.

3 - Make sure that you begin your compost pile on bare earth. Put down a layer of twigs and branches to help with irrigation. 

4 - Start piling up your compost heap. In the beginning, add as much as you can in bulk like leaves, wood chips and other large amounts of material. Add manure to help activate the compost pile and then go to town with all organic and compostable materials. If possible, alternate wet (food waste, soggy leaves, etc.) and dry (straw, wood chips, etc.) waste. You’ll see your landfill contribution dramatically decrease. 

5 - Make sure you keep your compost covered. It keeps the moisture and heat in. Both are very important in the process. It also keeps unwanted guests out.

6 - Every few weeks give the compost a good turn. Mixing up the compost gets air circulating and helps with breaking down the matter. If it starts to smell, cover it with more dry materials like sawdust or wet materials like fresh cut grass. It will cut down on odor.

Over time you will see the fruits of your composting labor and you’ll be able to use that to keep your gardens green and healthy. Having a small kitchen composting container will make it easy to collect organic matter and keep it under the counter. You won’t have to go out after every meal. 

Use compost on your home-grown fruits and vegetables

What not to put in your compost pile

Avoid adding meat products and bones to your compost as it can provide a tasty snack to your little four legged scavengers. Don’t add fruit peels of any kind (unless they are locally grown and not treated) as they may contain pesticides. Finally, don’t add pet droppings or weeds to your compost pile. Especially if the compost will be used to grow crops of any kind.

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Blair Dohey