The Essential Guide To Beginning Composting: What To Put In Your Compost Bin
Composting is a great way to reduce waste, enhance soil fertility, and help the environment, but it can be difficult to know where to start. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn what to put in your compost bin to start your composting journey! We’ll cover everything from the essential do’s and don’ts to aerating and harvesting your compost pile. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of how to get the most out of your composting experience. So read on and get started on your composting journey today!
What Is Composting?
What is Composting? Composting is the natural process of breaking down organic matter—like kitchen scraps and yard debris—into a nutrient-rich soil additive called compost. This compost can be used to enrich the soil in your garden and give plants and crops a nutrient boost. Composting is easy to do, environmentally friendly, and it helps reduce waste in landfills.
Composting is most commonly done in a compost bin, which is a structure made of metal, plastic, or wood that houses the composting materials. A compost bin can be as simple as a pile of organic material in your backyard, or it can be a more sophisticated structure like a tumbler or a rotating barrel.
It is important to understand what materials you can and cannot put in your compost bin. Composting works best with organic matter like vegetable scraps, yard waste (e.g. grass clippings, leaves, and twigs), and animal manures (e.g. rabbit, chicken, horse). Avoid putting things like potting soil, diseased plants, or cat and dog waste in your bin.
To begin composting, the first step is to lay down a suitable base material in your compost bin. This can be straw, hay, wood chips, or shredded leaves. The base layer should be about 6-12 inches deep. On top of this, begin to layer your organic materials, alternating between the carbon-rich material (e.g. hay, leaves, and wood chips), and the nitrogen-rich material (e.g. vegetable scraps, manure, and coffee grounds). Water your compost bin lightly as you are layering the materials.
Once your base layer and materials are properly layered, you can begin composting. Depending on the ambient temperature and the number of materials added in, composting should take 4-6 weeks to complete. During this process, you should turn the compost over and mix the material every few weeks, and add water as needed. Once the compost is completely broken down, it is time to use it in the garden.
By following this simple guide, you will be able to start composting in no time and create nutrient-rich soil for your plants and crops.
What Makes Good Compost
When you’re just starting out with composting, one of the most important questions is: what makes good compost? A compost bin will only be effective if it contains the right ingredients to break down into compost. If you want to be successful with composting, it’s important to understand what you should and should not put in it.
The most important thing to remember is that to create compost, you need a balance of carbon and nitrogen. Carbon is found in dry, dead plant material and nitrogen is found in fresh, wet plant material. A good rule of thumb is to mix one part of nitrogen-rich green material with two parts of carbon-rich brown material. These materials can include things like leaves, lawn cuttings, fruits, vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds, and eggshells.
When it comes to what to put in your compost bin, it’s important to know what materials should be avoided. These include meat, dairy, oils, fats, human and pet waste, and diseased plants. These materials can cause unpleasant odors, introduce pests or even attract animals.
When you’re just starting out, it can be helpful to create a compost diary to record what materials you’ve added to your compost bin and the state of your compost.
Keeping track of these things can help you track the progress of your compost and make adjustments as needed.
Including the right materials in your compost bin and creating the right balance of carbon and nitrogen is key to making great compost. Understanding what makes good compost and what should be avoided can help ensure a successful composting experience.
What Can You Put In Your Compost Bin?
Beginning composting is simple enough, but you may be wondering what you can safely add to your compost bin without harming the composting process. To ensure that your compost is high-quality and nutrient-rich, it is important to know what you can and cannot put in your compost bin.
The most important thing to know is that compost should be a combination of “green” and “brown” materials. Green materials are high in nitrogen and provide the compost pile with a majority of its nutrients. Common green materials include grass clippings, vegetable peelings, food scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and plant trimmings. Brown materials are high in carbon and provide the compost pile with structure as materials start to break down. Common brown materials include leaves, straws, sawdust, twigs, and paper.
In addition to green and brown materials, you can also add items such as manure, eggshells, and compost accelerators. Manure can be a great source of nutrients and can help speed up the composting process, but not all types of manure should be added to your compost. For example, large animal manure, like that of horses, cows, pigs, and chickens, should be avoided. Instead, you should stick to smaller animal manure, such as that of rabbits, goats, and sheep.
Eggshells are a great source of calcium, a nutrient that can be beneficial to both soil and bacteria in the compost pile. Including eggshells can also help with soil aeration, pH levels, and moisture. When adding eggshells to the compost pile, it is important to ensure that they are crushed or ground into small pieces, as large pieces may take a long time to break down.
Finally, compost accelerators are products that can help speed up the composting process. These products often contain a combination of microorganisms and activated carbon, which can help to increase the speed of decomposition, improve the moisture of the compost, and reduce odors.
In conclusion, when deciding what to put in your compost bin to start, the best option is to focus on the fundamentals—green materials, brown materials, animal manure, eggshells, and compost accelerators. This combination of materials will ensure that your compost pile will be nutrient-rich and properly balanced.
The first step to having a successful compost bin is knowing what to put in it. Below is a list of the common materials that can be composted, and should be added to your compost bin to get it started.
1. Kitchen Scraps – Organic kitchen scraps are an essential part of any compost bin. This includes items such as vegetable peelings, fruit cores, coffee grounds, tea bags, cooked or uncooked egg shells, and any other organic food scraps.
2. Grass Clippings and Leaves – Grass clippings and leaves are an excellent source of nitrogen for your compost bin. While grass clippings can be composted as-is, it may be beneficial to chop or shred leaves before adding them to the compost bin.
3. Manure – When using animal manure, it is important to note that only manure from herbivores should be used. Manure from horses, cows, goats, and poultry is all appropriate to add to your compost bin.
4. Wood Ash – Wood ash is high in potassium and calcium, which are beneficial to composting. However, it must be used sparingly as the pH levels of your compost bin can quickly become too high. Wood ash should also not be used in compost bins if they are going to be used to grow edible plants, as the ash can have the potential to contain heavy metals.
5. Sawdust – Sawdust can be a great addition to a compost bin, and is a good source of carbon. However, it is important to note that only sawdust that comes from untreated wood should be used. Any sawdust that comes from chemically treated wood should not be added to the compost bin.
6. Cardboard – Cardboard and paper are a great source of carbon for your compost bin. It is best to tear the pieces into smaller, more manageable pieces.
7. Hay and Straw – Hay and straw can be used to add carbon to the compost bin, and are some of the easiest materials to compost.
These are some of the main materials that should be added to your compost bin to get it started. Remember, the more diverse the materials in your compost bin, the better the end result will be.
When composting, there are some materials that should not be added to your compost bin. Below is a list of items that should not be added to your compost bin.
1. Meat and Fish – Meat, fish, and other animal products can attract pests, and also cause an unpleasant smell.
2. Dairy Products – Dairy products can also attract pests, and can easily become too smelly to be bearable.
3. Pet Waste – Pet waste should never be added to a compost bin as it can contain parasites and other potentially harmful organisms.
4. Diseased Plants – Plants that are diseased should never be added to a compost bin as the diseases could spread to other plants.
5. Weeds – Weeds can easily spread to other parts of your garden, as well as to your neighbor’s garden if they are added to your compost bin.
6. Chemically Treated Wood – Wood that has been treated with chemicals should not be added to a compost bin as the chemicals can be harmful to plants.
7. Human or Pet Hair – Hair should not be added to a compost bin as it can attract pests, and the smell can become unbearable.
These are some of the materials that should never be added to a compost bin. By avoiding these items, you can ensure that your compost bin will be successful and produce the best end result.
How To Set Up a Compost Bin
Building a compost bin is an important first step in beginning a composting system. By understanding the type of compost bin you need and what materials to include in it, you can get your compost heap up and running efficiently and effectively.
The type of compost bin you choose to set up will depend largely on the size of your space and the amount of material you plan to compost. There are a variety of compost bins available, from large tumblers that can handle more material and are more efficient, to more basic compost bins that are easy to move around and require less setup.
When setting up your compost bin, be sure to include the following items:
1. Brown Material: This material will add carbon to your compost and may include items such as leaves, sticks, straws, sawdust, shredded newspaper, and other dried organic material.
2. Green Material: This material will provide nitrogen for your compost and may include items such as fruits, vegetables, grass clippings, and coffee grounds.
3. Soil: Adding soil to your compost bin will introduce beneficial bacteria to the mix and will also help to provide the correct balance of nutrients.
4. Moisture: Moisture is essential for a successful compost bin. Adding a small amount of water when setting up your compost bin will help to keep the material moist and may need to be repeated periodically.
5. Oxygen: The material in your compost bin needs oxygen to break down effectively. Be sure to turn and stir your compost to introduce oxygen and keep the material from breaking down.
Once you have all of your items in the compost bin, you should mix them together and make sure to keep your compost moist. As the material in your compost bin breaks down, it will need to be turned and stirred on a regular basis to ensure it is breaking down properly.
Building a compost bin is an easy way to begin composting and save on waste. By understanding the type of compost bin you need and what items to include, you can get your compost bin up and running quickly and efficiently.
Types of Materials to Avoid
One of the most important steps to successful composting is knowing what materials to put in your compost bin. This is especially true for new composters who are just getting started. While there are plenty of materials that can be added to the compost bin to help the decomposition process, there are also certain materials that should be avoided. Here’s a quick look at which types of materials should not be added to your composting bin in order to avoid any potential problems.
Grass Clippings: While grass clippings are perfect for use as mulch around the garden, they should not be added to the compost bin. This is because grass clippings can become too wet and form a matted layer in the compost bin, preventing air from circulating. Therefore, grass clippings should not be added to the compost bin but should instead be used to create a natural mulch that will protect plants from the sun and retain moisture.
Meat and Dairy Products: Meat and dairy products should never be added to the compost bin because they can contain animal diseases, attract pests and animals, and create odors. Additionally, these materials can create an unhealthy environment for the beneficial bacteria that help to break down the compost materials.
Weeds and Diseased Plants: Weeds and plants that are diseased or infested with insects should also be avoided in composting as they can spread their diseases and pests to the rest of the garden. Additionally, some weeds are difficult to break down and can survive the composting process, allowing them to spread again.
Permanent Objects: Anything that is manmade and will not decompose naturally should not be added to the compost bin. This includes items such as plastic bags, metal or glass, rubber or leather, and anything treated with chemicals or paints. Such objects will take thousands of years to decompose, and could even create dangerous toxins in the compost.
Pet Waste: Finally, pet waste should be avoided in the compost bin. This includes feces from dogs, cats, birds, and other pets as they can contain parasites that can be harmful to other plants. Additionally, pet waste can create a foul smell in the compost bin and attract pests and animals.
How to Balance Your Compost Mix
Composting is an incredibly rewarding activity, but it’s also complex and requires some planning. Creating the right mix of materials for your compost bin is one of the most important steps for successful composting. You need a mix of materials that provide the optimal balance of nitrogen and carbon, as well as an array of beneficial microorganisms.
When it comes to striking the balance, you need to find the right ratio of nitrogen-rich materials (referred to as “greens”) and carbon-rich materials (“browns”). Greens are generally fresh, green plant material like grass clippings and vegetable trimmings, while browns are more dead, dry material like leaves and sawdust.
A good compost mix is usually about two parts brown for everyone part green.
Besides balancing your mix of materials, you’ll also want to ensure that you add water to your compost bin every two to three days. Moisture helps to break down the organic matter and helps to keep the microorganisms active. A good rule of thumb is that your compost should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge.
Finally, it’s a good idea to give your compost a mix every two weeks to help the process along. If you’ve added the right ingredients, you should be able to create your own nutrient-rich compost in no time.
Aerating Your Compost Pile
In order to get your compost pile off on the right foot, it is essential to ensure it has proper aeration. Without adequate aeration, the compost pile can become compressed and lack the much-needed oxygen and air circulation, which will slow the composting process. Without proper aeration, there will be insufficient decomposition and your compost pile may start to smell.
There are several ways to aerate your compost pile so that it has the necessary airflow and can decompose faster. To start, you should make sure that you are adding enough ‘brown’ organic material such as dead leaves, wood chips, and straw. These will reduce the overall density of your compost pile and make it easier for air to flow through. In addition, you should periodically turn your compost pile with a pitchfork or shovel in order to break up any compacted material.
Doing this every few weeks will help improve air circulation and will also be beneficial to the decomposition process.
Finally, you can also use a compost aerator. Compost aerators are typically made of metal or plastic and used to mix oxygen-rich air into the compost pile. They can help create a more airy pile which will aid in composting and ensure everything decomposes faster. You can also add in a small amount of water to the compost pile to help keep it moist and promote better aeration.
In conclusion, proper aeration is essential to a successful compost pile. Make sure to add in enough ‘brown’ organic material, periodically turn your pile, and consider investing in a compost aerator if possible. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy and hot compost pile.
Harvesting and Using Compost
Once you have begun your compost bin, you may wonder what you can add to it in order to create the best quality compost. The key is to provide the right ratio of “brown” (carbon-rich) material, such as dried leaves, straw, or newspaper, and “green” (nitrogen-rich) material, such as grass clippings, fresh leaves, or kitchen scraps. These materials should be layered in the bin as they are added. By alternating layers of brown and green materials, you can ensure that your compost will be balanced and have the right conditions for creating high-quality compost.
In addition, it is important to keep your compost moist by adding water. However, too much water will cause your compost to become soupy and slow down the decomposition process, so it is important to monitor the moisture levels in the bin and adjust them as necessary.
When your compost is ready to be used, it should be a dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling material. Depending on what you started with, it could take anywhere from one month to one year for your compost to be ready to use.
Many gardeners choose to employ the “cold compost” approach, meaning they simply let nature take its course and allow their compost to break down slowly over time. With this method, you should expect the compost to take a year or more to be ready to use.
On the other hand, “hot composting” is a faster method that uses higher temperatures in order to speed up the process. By regularly turning the compost and adding the right amounts of material, oxygen, and water, you can create high-quality compost in as little as one month.
No matter which method you choose, always remember to wear gloves and use a face mask when harvesting and handling your compost in order to protect yourself from any potential pathogens that may be present. Finally, it is important to remember to use your compost as soon as possible after harvesting it, as it will begin to break down again over time.
Now that you know what to put in your compost bin to start, you’re almost ready to begin composting! Here are a few finishing touches that will ensure your compost bin starts off on the right foot.
Start with a Layer of Coarse Material: Before you add any of your compost materials, you’ll want to create a foundation for your compost bin. Start by adding a layer of coarse material such as twigs, straws, or dried leaves. These materials will help aerate your compost bin ensuring that important microbes and bacteria are able to survive and thrive.
Add Moisture: Many compost mixtures need some water in order to start the decomposition process. If your materials are too dry, add just enough water so that the compost bin is slightly damp. Too much moisture will prevent oxygen from reaching the compost bin, so sprinkle your compost bin with water instead of dousing it.
Monitor the Temperature: Healthy compost needs to reach a temperature range of between 10°C and 65°C in order to decompose properly. If your compost bin is too cold, it will not decompose quickly. The best way to bring up the temperature of your compost bin is to make sure it is well aerated and to add a layer of insulation such as straw or leaves.
Label Your Compost Bin: This is an important step for determining when your compost is ready for use. Label your compost bin so that you can keep track of when the composting process began and when the compost should be ready for use. It’s also a good idea to track the temperature of your compost bin in order to ensure it is in the ideal temperature range for optimal composting.
Following these steps will ensure that your compost bin is set up for success! With the right materials in your compost bin, you’ll be able to create nutrient-rich compost that you can use to fertilize and enrich your garden.