Three Game-Changing Composting Tips
Okay, this may not be the most beautiful and delicious post in the world, but it’s an important one. And it is of the utmost importance in creating all the beauty and deliciousness in the rest of my posts. The topic is composting. Yep, decomposing garden waste.
I’ve assembled these composting tips because they have completely changed how I compost and have led to an incredibly fast and productive system for creating nutrient-rich soil for my garden. If you are gardening and don’t compost, you are missing out. If you are gardening and looking to improve your compost, read on. If you don’t garden and don’t compost, well, my hope is that one of my posts may inspire you to change that one day!
I’ve had this dual-batch rolling composter from Lee Valley for about five years now, and I almost got rid of it at the beginning of the season. It just wasn’t working for me. Things were taking way too long to finish composting, I felt I really couldn’t fit enough of my garden waste in it to make it worth it. I was considering building a large three-binned system somewhere on my property. Then I made three key changes that changed everything.
Tip #1: Place it in your working area
The composter used to be located in a back corner of my yard, behind my perennial flower bed and about as far away from my back door as possible. It was out of site, out of mind. I barely turned it and I barely used it because it just wasn’t close enough. So, this spring, I dragged it across my yard and put it in the back corner of my vegetable garden. Now, it is so convenient to add my garden waste to it as I’m out there tending to the veggie beds. I have a stainless steel pail I keep on my countertop for food scraps and I carry it out with me when going to work in the garden. Every time I add something and about every other day, I give the bin a few turns. This keeps it very well aerated, accelerating the composting process.
Tip #2: More brown than green
This was one of those things that I’d read about it the compost literature but hadn’t really sunk in until I read more about the purpose of nitrogen and carbon based materials in compost. Compost is formed when microbes convert organic matter into rich black soil that is indispensable in the garden. The organic matter that you add to your compost can be green (kitchen waste, green grass clippings, garden thinnings) or brown (dried leaves, dried grass, paper, cardboard). In a very basic sense, the carbon is the energy and the nitrogen is the protein and trace nutrients that the microbes need to work their magic. The ideal ratio is roughly 30:1 brown to green. In other words, a lot more brown than green.
Before, I’d mostly just been dumping my kitchen scraps in and wondered why my compost was taking so long to finish. Well, this year I’ve been balancing that green waste with cardboard. Yes, cardboard. I literally take my big brown Amazon boxes, rip them up into small pieces, and stuff them into my compost. It disappears like magic as the microbes gobble it up. Game changer.
Tip #3: Add water (if needed)
The composter I have is enclosed, so does not get any moisture from rain or irrigation. Especially now, with the addition of the cardboard, I periodically (roughly monthly) hand-water my compost. I just fill up my large watering can and sprinkle the water over, rotating the compost so it gets evenly moist. You don’t want it soaked, but you do want it to resemble a well rung-out sponge.
So, that’s it. Those are the three simple composting tips that have drastically changed my composting this year. Once I started to view my compost as a living system that requires air, energy, nutrients, and water, it started making a whole lot more sense! I’d say I can get a finished batch of dark, sweet-smelling compost in 4-6 weeks using these tips. I’d still like to add some larger-batch compost bins somewhere on my property for some of my larger garden waste such as winter prunings and fall cleanup. For now, into the municipal compost it goes…