This article is written for the soft-core gardener looking to keep it small and simple. Follow these steps to get started composting today.
First Things First: What Is Composting?
Composting is essentially taking food scraps and, with patience and a bit of elbow grease, transforming it into a nutrient-dense addition to your garden.
Now, you may have been turned off by avid gardeners touting the importance of aerobic decomposition, NPK levels and the dangers of too much nitrogen, but we’re here to tell you that composting doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming or expensive. Composting is EASY.
If you’re wondering, “is it worth it?” the answer is YES! Composting is IMPORTANT. For our health, the soil’s health, and our environment. So read on!
Step 1: The Container
Literally buy a bin. Just do it. Go to a hardware store a grab a bin from the shelf and pay for it.
We recommend buying a bin that is about three times the width of a loaf of bread, and one and a half times as tall (can you tell we’re craving carbs?).
You’re going to want to buy a lid for that bin as well. While the more aeration you allow your pile, the better, you will still need that lid for transporting you compost or turning it. But we’ll get to that.
Step 2: Add Your Browns
Photo credit to Sue St. Jean
Depending on your living situation, browns may be very easy or rather difficult to come by.
If you have an outdoor area, use whatever natural scraps you find outside (dried leaves, pine needles, twigs, dry grass).
If you live in a more urban setting without access to outside browns, use old paper bags, newspapers, the refuse from in your office’s paper shredder.
INSTRUCTION: Place a layer of these at the bottom of your bin.
Step 3: Add Your Greens
The greens are what you think of when you hear the word “compost.”
Photo credit to Sue St. Jean
These include your coffee grinds, tea bags, stems, leaves, peels and rinds.
INSTRUCTION: Add these on top of your browns and collect them as your week progresses, alternating your browns and your greens.
Step 4: Moisturize It
And we don’t mean your face.
Your compost pile should always have the feeling of a damp sponge.
INSTRUCTION: If it’s too dry, add water. If it’s too wet, add browns.
Step 5: Mix It Up
Your compost pile will need air to break down properly (ie. no odors). The fancy way of saying this is “aerobic digestion”.
To turn the growing compost pile in your bin, you can do one of two things:
INSTRUCTION: You can take a paint stick or rod and turn it manually, or you can put the lid on the bin (making sure it’s completely sealed) and roll the bin around a bit.
You’re going to want to turn your compost at least once a week - more if you’re starting to notice an odor. The ideal time to turn your compost is when the center of the pile reaches about 130-150 degrees Fahrenheit/54 degrees Celsius.
Don’t have a thermometer, or don’t want to shove one into a pile of hot garbage? If the pile is about as hot as your steering wheel after your car has been sitting in the sun for an hour, it’s time to turn the pile.
Ding-Ding-Ding! Time To Compost!
That’s it! You’ve done it! Now all you have to do is hurry up and wait.
The composting process can take anywhere from three months to three years. The time will depend on the size of your pile.
If you create a compost pile the size of the bin featured above, your food waste should transform to compost within eight to twelve weeks.
Remember: the more you aerate the food waste, the faster it will break down!
Speed It Up!
While the old natural way is limited by the amount of aeration you can provide manually, there are other ways to compost which will move things along much faster.
A compost tumbler is an excellent way of making speedy compost. A compost tumbler is an easy-turn solution (you would turn it once a day) and can convert food waste to compost within three weeks.
A bokashi bin is another way to speed things up, though, as bokashi ferments the food rather than composts it, you will still need to bury it in the soil to transform it into compost.
A vermicompost system is an excellent option for easy, speedy compost, though you will have to pay more attention to the air and nitrogen levels in order to keep your worms happy and healthy.
Even Faster! Composting with the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple, Silly!)
What if you travel for a week or more?
What if you live in an apartment or you have physical limitations that do not allow you to manually turn a compost system?
Considering how important diverting food waste is for the health of our society and for our environment, composting should be something everyone can manage from the comfort of their own home.
In the past few years, there have been many technological advancements that make it easy to recycle your food waste without lifting a finger.
Electric composters turn and aerate your food waste for you, transforming food waste into a nutrient-dense fertilizer in a matter of hours.
While more expensive in dollars, the tech option is certainly cheaper in time, effort and space.
Want to KISS? FoodCycler might be the option for you.