How to Choose a Composting Container
There are many sizes, shapes, and styles of composting bins to choose from. You can make one yourself or opt for not using one at all and create a compost pile or heap.
A compost tumbler is a cylindrical shape much like a drum laid on its side. It can be turned on a base that is supported on the flat ends. By turning the drum you are rotating and aerating the materials at the same time. It is an easy and effective way to rotate your compost.
A bio-orb container is shaped like a round ball and comes in various sizes. The benefits of this type of container are the ease of getting it around (you can roll it over to your yard waste and roll it back to its base), and the act of rolling it also aerates and rotates the contents. There are many small round holes in the container to let air in too.
A wooden box with slats or a wooden framed box with mesh sides can be purchased or easily made at home. If you can find four wooden pallets, you can nail them together to create a compost bin very inexpensively or you can find a roll of wire mesh at your local hardware store. Both of these options allow air to circulate as long as the contents are not too compacted.
If you do not want to use a bin, start with a pile of glass clippings or leaves and start to layer your food scraps on top. As time goes by and your pile continues to grow make sure you rotate and “stir” it frequently. Be warned though, it is not as easy to turn a pile that is not contained. They tend to grow in circumference over time as the pile spreads out after rotating.
Materials Needed to Start Composting
Now that you have decided that you want to compost, there is a list of items that you will need to get started. Most of these items are available in your own yard and require a small amount of planning ahead of time.
After you pick a location for your compost bin or pile (ensure it is in an easily accessible location) you are going to need approximately four inches of leaves as a base. If you are able to chip the leaves prior it will make things progress and breakdown faster but it is not a requirement. The quantity of leaves you will need to make a four-inch base will vary depending on the size of the bin you have chosen.
Your next layer should be about one inch of high-quality soil. If you cannot find this in your own garden a small bag purchased from your local nursery will work fine.
Then start layering the food for the microbes to eat. There are two categories of food you are going to need brown (yard waste) and green (food scraps or other organic waste). A common ratio is two parts brown for every part of green.
You are going to need a spade or heavy-duty pitch fork to turn or rotate the compost at least once per week. If there is a dry-spell you will need a means of adding water to keep the pile moist.
With such simple materials and start-up instructions, anyone can start their own compost pile in under a day. If you choose to not use a bin, consider buying some wire mesh to contain the pile, it can be wrapped around the base of the pile in a circular shape. The compost can be ready anywhere from two months up to one year.
The Best Food for your Compost Bin
There are some rules to learn and follow about what you can put into your compost bin in order to keep your pile healthy and working properly. The most widespread organic material that you will add to your compost will be kitchen scraps. The kitchen scraps are considered green food that you feed to your compost as they contain nitrogen – an essential element to the process.
It is a good idea to have a container with an airtight lid to store the food waste in your kitchen. You do not want to attract insects or pests inside your home nor do you want to be running to your compost bin every time you make a meal or snack. If your kitchen container is airtight you will also cut down on unpleasant odors.
Here is a list of the most commonly used compost items from the kitchen:
* Vegetable peels and seeds
* Fruit peels, cores, and seeds
* Coffee grounds – you can compost the paper filter too
* Tea bags or loose tea leaves
* Crushed egg shells – do not add left-over eggs cooked or raw
Whenever you are adding your green food to the compost bin, make sure you cover it under a thick layer of brown food (yard waste or other carbon producing agent such as dry leaves, wood chips, sawdust, or small twigs). If your food scraps are very wet or moist, in addition to putting brown food on top of the scraps mix some in with the waste too. This will enable better air circulation.
What not to Compost
There are many things you can use to make good compost humus (which is what the final product is called). There are also quite a few items that should never go into your compost bin. Listed below are many of the materials you should not try to compost and why it is not a good idea.
Ashes from charcoal should not be added to your compost, you can add very small amount of ashes from a fire that was made with untreated wood. It is not a good idea to add a lot though because it can change the composition and make it too alkaline.
Do not add any kind of droppings from an animal that is not a vegetarian. Animals that pass the compost inspection include horses, cows, rabbits, and goats. You can even add droppings from hamster or other indoor pets. But stay away from bird, dog, and cat droppings (including cat litter). They all can contain harmful organisms.
Any type of animal waste such as leftover meat, oil, bones, or fish waste are off-limits.
They all can cause your pile to smell badly and can attract unwanted pests.
Milk, yogurt, cheese, or any other milk product should be added with caution. They all will attract animals and pests. If you do decide to add them, do so in small amounts and cover them with plenty of brown food afterwards.
You can add weeds, but you should take care to ensure your composting is functioning properly. If your compost is not generating enough heat the weeds will not be destroyed and can grow again once you spread your compost. You can dry your weeds on a sidewalk or on some concrete before added to the pile as an added precaution to make sure they do not survive.