Decreasing your carbon footprint is a basic human responsibility. There is a simple and practical approach that will help both you and the environment and that is making a compost pile in your backyard.  It also doesn’t cost much to get started. If you’re interested, read on!

Take a look at the advantages of composting. You can significantly cut trash. In 2017, the United States generated 267.8 million tons of rubbish, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unfortunately, only 25% of the waste was recycled, with the remaining 10% composted.

You may receive ready-to-use organic matter for improving the soil structure and nutrient basis of your garden by starting a compost pile in your yard. This means a better crop and lower food costs for your household. You’ll also help to combat climate change by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by your food leftovers in landfills.

Composting 101

To simplify things, consider the following:

Organic composting is a natural process that involves breaking down a pile of yard waste and kitchen scraps. Bacteria, fungi, and worms form an organic compound known as “black gold” when the correct elements are combined in the right amounts. The soil’s structure, fertility, and water holding capacity are then improved by adding the valuable organic matter.

Two types of composting

Recognize that there are two types of composting: cold and hot composting before you start putting on.

Collecting yard waste or taking out organic materials in your trash like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells, and corralling them in a pile or bin is all it takes to start cold composting. The material will decompose over the course of a year or so.

Hot composting necessitates a greater level of involvement on your part, but the payoff is a speedier process: you’ll get compost in one to three months during warm weather. Nitrogen, carbon, air, and water are the four ingredients needed for fast-cooking hot compost. These items, when combined, feed microorganisms, hastening the decay process. When there is a lot of garden waste in the spring or fall, you can make a big batch of compost and then start another one while the first “cooks.”

Worms are used to create vermicompost. These worms produce castings, which are high in nitrogen, when they eat your food leftovers. However, you can’t just use any worms for this: Redworms, also known as  “red wigglers” should be used. Worms for composting can be found for a reasonable price online or at a garden supply store.

Things to compost

What you can put in your compost depends on the type of composter you have, but there are some general guidelines to follow. To different degrees, all biodegradable materials are carbon or nitrogen-based. Maintaining a working balance between these two constituents is the key to a healthy compost pile.

Carbon

Compost gets its light, fluffy body from carbon-rich stuff such as branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust pellets, shredded brown paper bags, maize stalks, coffee filters, coffee grounds, pine needles, egg shells, straw, peat moss, and wood ash.

Carbon should outnumber nitrogen in a good compost pile.

Nitrogen

Manures, food scraps, green lawn clippings, kitchen garbage, and green leaves are examples of nitrogen or protein-rich substances that can be used to make enzymes.

Carbon should outnumber nitrogen in a good compost pile. Use one-third green and two-thirds brown components as a general rule. The brown materials’ bulk permits oxygen to permeate and nourish the creatures living there. A dense, stinky, slowly disintegrating anaerobic mass results from too much nitrogen. Covering new nitrogen-rich material, which can produce odors if exposed to open air, with carbon-rich material, which often emits a fresh, beautiful smell, is a good composting hygiene practice. If you’re unsure, add extra carbon!

Composting is an excellent way to repurpose items in your refrigerator that have beyond their sell-by date, hence reducing food waste. Certain types of yard trash can also be composted instead of being dumped. Gather the following ingredients to get your compost pile off to a good start:

  • Vegetable scraps
  • Fruit scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells 
  • Clippings of grass and plants
  • Dry leaves
  • Straw
  • Finely chopped bark and wood chips
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Untreated wood sawdust

Keeping a composting container in your kitchen is a simple way to collect materials as you prepare meals. You can make your own indoor or outdoor compost bin if you don’t want to buy one. Another alternative for storing kitchen scraps that can spoil fast is to freeze them until you’re ready to add them to your larger outside pile.

How does it occur?

There are five components to the composting process:

  • Carbon (C)
  • Nitrogen (N)
  • Moisture
  • Oxygen (O2) 
  • Microorganisms

Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, bugs, and worms operate in three steps to form compost in the presence of moisture and oxygen. The length of time it takes to complete the process is determined on how involved you are, the size of your pile, and what you put into it. 

Microorganisms degrade carbon and nitrogen in the appropriate proportions, allowing plant life to extract more nutrients and thrive, releasing oxygen back into the environment. The more nutrients in your soil, the more greens you’ll be able to grow.

Experts believe the composting process can take anything from a few months to three years, according to Daily Gardener. There are several steps you can take to go to the faster end of the range and have your lawn and garden in better form more quickly. Composting is an important part of living a sustainable lifestyle, and it can also help your garden grow faster.

Understanding the compost pile materials

Compost Pile

Depending on their makeup, most decomposable items in compost piles can be classed as brown or green.

Materials:

  • Brown elements are carbon-rich substances that give compost its light, fluffy body and offer energy to the microorganisms in the pile. Dry leaves, branches, stems, sawdust, tree bark, shredded newspaper, corn stalks, wood ash, and pine needles are examples of brown materials that are wood-based or fibrous.
  • Green materials are waste products that are nitrogen-based. They offer the amino acids and proteins that bacteria and fungi require to function. Green materials rich in nitrogen include manures, food scraps, coffee grounds, green leaves, and grass clippings.

A simple rule of thumb: have around 2/3 “brown” items and 1/3 “green” materials in the compost pile for optimal results.

Making a compost pile

The most basic method of composting is to make a pile or heap in the yard and tend to it as needed. If possible, place it in a dry, shady location near a water source.

Step 1: Ask for permission

First and foremost, obtain permission. Even though composting is good for the environment, you should check with your local government to see if you can start a compost pile. Your homeowner’s association should follow the same recommendations. Because of odor and insect issues, you’re more likely to run into rules if you reside in a suburb or urban region.

Step 2: Decide on a location

Because a compost pile produces scents, you’ll need to keep it away from your living quarters or other frequently used areas. A flat place with at least partial sunshine is ideal. Heat is a factor to consider. Make a mound that is at least 3 feet tall. A site with well-draining soil is essential for optimizing decomposition conditions.

Other things to keep in mind are:

  • To keep the compost pile from drying out, make sure you have access to water.
  • Proximity to your garden to ensure the quality of the stuff it produces.
  • Aesthetics

A vacant plot of land is the win-win situation. It is in contact with the ground in order to replenish its nutrition supply. Starting a compost pile on asphalt or concrete is not a good idea. Keep in mind that the decomposition process generates a significant amount of heat. Check to see whether your compost pile is too close to anything it could harm.

Step 3: Collect your starter materials 

Carbon and nitrogen are the main elements you’ll need for your compost pile. They serve as a foundation for bacteria and other organisms to function. Because they are aerobic, or oxygen-loving, they require oxygen from the air. Moisture is also required for the survival of bacteria and other organisms on the site. Each component has a role in the process of building a compost pile in your backyard.

Wood chips, mulch, leaves, and paper trash are all great carbon sources. Nitrogen is abundant in plant materials such as grass clippings. Scraps from the kitchen will also make a major contribution. 

  • Dead houseplants
  • Coffee grounds
  • Used up annual plants
  • Peels from fruits and vegetables
  • Yard trash
  • Nutshells

There are, however, some things you shouldn’t put in your compost pile for a variety of reasons, including disease risk, smells, and pest attraction. Here are a few examples:

  • Bits of meat
  • Yard cuttings treated with pesticides
  • Spent cooking oil
  • Pet feces

Step 4: Keep it under control

We recommend using a chicken wire fence to create a barrier around your compost pile. It’ll keep everything contained and your pets away from the contents. You could also find it useful to use black plastic to mask off viewable sides. This will ensure that everything inside the heap heats up to at least 100 degrees fahrenheit, speeding up the chemical reactions.

Step 5: Build your foundation layer

Starting with a carbon layer, such as wood chips, is a great approach to keep weeds at bay. At least a 4-inch layer should be added. Using a garden hose or a water bucket with a sprinkler nozzle, lightly moisten the items. It’s critical not to put it out because this will deprive the bacteria and germs of oxygen, which they require to exist.

Step 6: Incorporate some nitrogen into the mixture

Now is the time for your kitchen scraps and rubbish to be disposed away. Again, aim for at least a 4-inch layer to create a solid foundation for decomposition. To wet the materials, sprinkle them with water. Keep in mind that a compost pile is an ongoing project. As you collect more scraps, dampen them with water as you go.

Step 7: Rinse and repeat the process

Alternate the carbon and nitrogen layers until the compost pile reaches about waist height. That quantity is required to provide sufficient heat. The watering end of things will most likely be taken handled by precipitation. If a strong downpour is expected, though, don’t be afraid to cover the heap. Similarly, if the contents look to be dry, moisten it to halt decomposition.

Step 8: Give it a good stir

The materials will most likely become more compressed as they degrade. As a result, the amount of oxygen available will be reduced, and the process will be slowed. It may also emit offensive scents. The solution is to make sure the bacteria get enough oxygen. That includes changing the compost pile’s contents at least once a week. All you’ll need is a shovel or a garden fork.

Step 9: Keep an eye on how things are going

It’s critical to keep track of how your compost pile is progressing so you can make adjustments as needed. It’s also critical to keep an eye out for signs of pests such as rodents or raccoons. Let’s be honest. There are numerous items in the heap that might entice a hungry animal looking for a quick meal. Another reason you shouldn’t install it too close to your house is because of this.

Step 10: The humus

The humus is the end result of all your hard work and meticulous upkeep. It’s the nutrient-dense organic matter that results from the decomposition of everything you put in your compost pile. It’s what you’ll put in your garden to provide the nutrients your plants require to thrive. Depending on the size of the heap and its contents, this stage of the procedure can take several months.

The aroma of humus is nice and earthy. A rake or hoe can be used to till the soil in your garden. It will improve the structure of the soil as well as its ability to retain water. Your plants will also benefit from the humus’ nitrogen content. The next batch of tomatoes you plant will require less fertilizer.

When is the compost considered ready?

Compost Pile

The temperature of the pile will drop substantially once all of the waste has been broken down and the compost is ready to use. The finished product will resemble dark, rich dirt and have a strong, earthy aroma.

What should not go in my compost?

  • Unless you’re using a composter intended expressly for this purpose, don’t compost meat, bones, or fish scraps as they attract pests. 
  • Avoid composting perennial weeds or diseased plants, as spreading your compost may spread weed seeds or diseases.
  • Pet manures should not be utilized in compost that will be used on food crops.
  • Pesticide residues may be present in banana peels, peach peels, and orange rinds, so keep them out of the compost.
  • Composting black walnut leaves is not recommended.
  • To avoid clumping, sawdust can be added to the compost, but it should be blended or spread thinly. Make sure the sawdust is free of machine oil or chain oil remnants from the cutting machine.

Composting do’s and don’ts

Keeping the perfect proportion of brown and green materials in the pile, as well as the right amount of water, will affect how quickly the process takes place. Keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind to help objects degrade more quickly in your compost pile.

Do

  • All materials should be chopped into smaller pieces.
  • If you reside in a rainy climate, cover the top of the pile.
  • If your brown ratio is too high, add nitrogen fertilizer.
  • To boost the calcium content of your finished compost, add powdered eggshells.

Don’t 

  • Don’t lay food waste over the pile as it can attract rodents.
  • Plant roots, sick plant tissue, and pesticide-infected plant waste should not be thrown in the pile.

Kitchen storage for compost

Keep a container with a lid and a handle under the sink to hold food trash until you’re ready to transfer it to your composter. Odors can be reduced by using a stainless steel compost pail with a charcoal filter or a ceramic type. Use an old ice cream pail if you don’t mind a few odors. Before tossing in any large chunks, chop them up.

Advantages of composting

Conditioner for the soil

You’re making rich humus for your lawn and garden with compost. This provides nutrients to your plants while also assisting in the retention of soil moisture. It isn’t called “black gold” for no reason.The single most important supplement you can provide your garden is compost.

Kitchen and yard waste are recycled

Composting can remove up to 30% of household trash from the rubbish disposal. This is significant because organic waste in landfills lacks the oxygen it requires to decay quickly. Instead, as it decomposes, it produces damaging methane gas, hastening global warming and climate change.

Beneficial organisms are introduced to the soil

Compost contains microscopic organisms that aerate the soil, break down organic compounds for plant use, and protect plants from illness.

Eco-friendly

When put to lawns and garden beds, composting is a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.

Landfill waste reduction

North American landfills are filling up rapidly. In fact, a lot have already closed down. Compostable materials make up one-third of landfill garbage. By diverting this material from landfills, we can extend the life of our landfills and our wild spaces.

Last words

If you recycle, including composting in your waste management strategy is a great method to get rid of scraps while also providing a ready source of nutrients for your garden. You’ll also contribute to the reduction of municipal garbage and greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, it is neither complicated nor costly. It is the right thing to do for the environment to learn how to construct a compost pile in your backyard.