Before you throw away food scraps at the end of a meal, consider using them and other organic materials for compost. Items such as leaves, grass and vegetable scraps are broken down by microorganisms to form a rich soil-like substance called compost.
What Do You Need to Home Compost?
All you need to compost is enthusiasm, yard or food waste (except meat or dairy products) and some space. Compost piles don't need to be enclosed, although many people use a bin or similar enclosure. You can purchase a compost bin or easily construct one with common materials such as chicken wire, snow fencing, lumber or used pallets. Other tools that come in handy for composting are a garden hose, wheelbarrow and common garden tools.
A 4x4x4 foot area out of direct sunlight is ideal for your compost pile. Choose an easily accessible spot on a grass or soil base. Composting can begin any time of the year, but many people start in the fall when leaves are abundant. Organic materials should be mixed, adding water as needed, so the materials feel like a moist sponge. The compost pile should be turned after a few weeks so that the outside layers are exchanged with the center of the pile. Turn compost piles about once a month, except in cold winter conditions. Water can be added during turning, if necessary.
What to Avoid
While many yard wastes and kitchen scraps can be successfully composted, some materials should be kept out of the compost pile.
Do not compost the following:
- Diseased plants or leaves
- Persistent weeds (poison ivy, multiflora rose, bindweed, quack grass, etc.)
- Human or pet feces
- Meat, dairy products and kitchen vegetables cooked with animal fats
- Plants that have gone to seed
For more information on composting, be sure to attend one of our FREE Home Composting Workshops.