25 Apr

I’m not sure why, but I used to be kind of intimidated by composting. I thought it would be complicated and expensive to set up or that it would take a lot of time to maintain, but once I got started I discovered how amazingly easy and truly low-maintenance it is. I started with these basic instructions—just nine steps—and set up my composting bin in about 30 minutes for around $5.

The only cost was the $5 (or so) I spent on a 24-inch-tall plastic bin. (A bin that’s 24 inches or taller is recommended so you can easily stir the compost and add new materials.) I drilled eight holes in the bottom of the bin, eight in the top, and a few in the sides.

I then filled the bin one-fourth of the way full with shredded newspaper (that was the most time-consuming part of the process), shoveled dirt from the yard on top of that filling it half full, and put it in our shed in the backyard. I sprayed it with a bit of water so it would be moist but not soaking wet.

The moisture level in your compost is really important—you don’t want it to be too dry or too wet. If it’s too wet, the excess water inhibits the microorganisms in the compost from breaking down the added food scraps and yard clippings, but these microorganisms do need some water to operate so you don’t want it too dry either. Does that sound complicated? It really isn’t.

Here’s the basics: If your compost bin starts leaking water, begins to smell, or looks really wet, then add in drier materials like leaves, weeds, or grass clippings to absorb some of the moisture and hold off adding any wet materials like banana peels, tea bags, or tomato scraps until your bin looks back to normal. You could also place your bin in the sun to warm it up and help some of the moisture evaporate. If your compost starts looking dry or dusty, add the wetter materials or spray it with a little water and hold off adding the drier ones. It might take a few days to get things back to the right consistency. Just give it time. Here’s what ours looks like at the moment:

We keep a small garbage can next to our larger one to collect food and material that can be composted. I try to include a variety of materials so the moisture level is a mix of dry and wet (banana peels, onion and garlic scraps, tea bags, corn husks, dead flowers, leaves, egg shells). When adding it to the compost bin, I first stir the compost to aerate it and then pile it to one side…

…add in the scraps…

…and cover them completely with dirt.

That last step is key. Exposed scraps won’t break down as quickly and can also start to smell.

There are tons of different composting methods (go here to learn about a few more of them), but I found this was an easy and unintimidating way to get started. All the steps and tips I’ve mentioned above are the methods I’ve found work for us and keep us composting.

Have any of you tried composting? What methods or tips have you found helpful?


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