Now that spring is upon us it's a good time to start composting! Well, it's always a good time to compost, but spring means warmer weather which means faster compost results. Composting is a great way to dispose of scraps of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in spring and summer!
Wait... what is compost?
Compost is the end-product of controlled biological decomposition of organic material. Using a mixture of food scraps and yard waste, the compost pile increases in temperature to facilitate decomposition (between 110-160 degrees F) to generate a nutritious product. The material is a valuable nutrient-rich product that is great for new plant growth in gardens, lawns, and indoor potted plants. Compost can improve the physical, chemical, and biological attributes of soil by making a better environment for plant roots, improving water-retention, suppressing soil pathogens, increasing soil infiltration to reduce runoff, and more!
What you need:
To start your compost pile you'll need a mix of materials for nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen "greens" include material that is wet or has recently grown, such as food scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds. Carbon "browns" consist of dry or woody plant material, such as dry leaves, wood chips, and newspaper. Alternate layers of browns and greens 4-6 inches thick in your pile.
A good mix of material should have an equal amount of browns to greens. A mixture skewed too far in either browns or greens may not reach the required temperature for proper decomposition and may start to smell. You must also monitor the moisture level of your pile. This is done with the hand-squeeze test: take a handful of compost, squeeze it in your hands, and if a few drops of water appear on your hand the moisture level is just right. If it is too dry, add water or more greens; if it is too wet, add more browns.
DO NOT USE meat, dairy, oil, pet waste, diseased plants, or weeds that have seeded into your compost pile.
How to use your compost:
Your finished compost should be dark in color and smell fresh. It can be mixed with regular soil for lawns and gardens, used as mulch for landscaping and garden plants, and mixed into the soil of potted plants.
Attached are guides on how to build your own compost bin. You can purchase a ready-made bin if that is more convenient!