How do I get started with composting?

General    Zone 7

I think that this year I would like to get started making my own compost to maintain my vegetable garden. How do I get started and what are the best materials to put in?

Posted by: Ed Simmons (3 points) Ed Simmons
Posted: February 6, 2013


Compost is an organic material made from household and garden waste such as food scraps, leaves and grass clippings. It can be used to enrich your soil with important nutrients required for healthy plant growth and encourage growth of beneficial microorganisms.

To get started making your own compost, you should first select a site in your garden (although it is possible to compost indoors). Composting material should be kept out of direct sunlight to prevent it drying out so you should select a shaded area and aim to start off with a pile that is around 1 cubic metre in size. You can buy or construct your own composting bin, or simply make a pile on the ground. A bin will, however, retain moisture and discourage any animals which may be tempted to visit the decomposing waste.

Healthy compost requires three main ingredients, green material (such as grass clippings, fruits and vegetables), brown material (such as fallen leaves, hay or straw) and water. In addition, the compost should be kept well aerated by turning it every so often or by adding a coarse material like straw. Aim for a composition of 1 part green material to 3 parts brown material. Good compost should have a much higher composition of carbon than nitrogen. You can encourage beneficial bacteria when starting up by adding chicken, rabbit or pigeon feces to your mix. Continue to add to your compost organic kitchen and garden waste accumulates. Compost that is ready for harvest will look like a dark soil and has a fresh earthy smell.

Compostable materials include (but are definitely not limited to):

- fruit and vegetable peel
- grass clippings
- fallen leaves
- dead plants
- coffee grinds
- sawdust
- egg shells
- straw
- shredded cardboard
- tissue

Things you should not compost include:
- meat scraps
- fish bones
- diseased plants
- glossy paper
- cat litter

Posted by: Lindsay McMenemy (2 points) Lindsay McMenemy
Posted: February 6, 2013

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