4 Steps to Kitchen Garden Composting
Gather Your Waste: Use Brown and Green Materials
Start by gathering your kitchen waste in small quantities. You will want to be sure that the waste is chopped up into small pieces to reduce the time it takes for it to decompose. Compost ingredients can mostly be divided into two categories: Brown and Green materials.
Brown materials are items such as leaves, straw, paper and cardboard, leaves, eggshells, and sawdust. Green materials are items such as vegetable and fruit peelings, egg shells, grass, weeds, and manure.
A variety of brown and green materials are both needed in the pile, the more varied the materials you compost, the richer the finished product will be. You’ll need about 60% brown materials and 40% green materials. So be sure to save your brown items as often as possible (don’t discard leaves-compost them instead)!
Don’t use items such as meat, bones, fatty food waste, whole eggs, dairy, and treated wood.
Build the Compost
To build the compost, you’ll want to add a few handfuls of bagged or garden compost to start the process. Then add both green waste and brown waste. Add a bit of water if the mixture seems to dry. You can continue to add more materials daily. Each time, be sure to completely seal or cover your compost so that the materials don’t get rained on or pests don’t create a mess of your compost. Each time you add more compost, be sure to give it a few turns to be certain that oxygen is surrounding your compost.
Tend the Compost
Once your bin is about ⅔ to ¾ full, you’ll want to stop adding new material and begin to turn it more frequently. As you let one compost pile cure, you can start adding to another. To finish a full compost pile, turn the pile every few days or so. The more that you rotate the pile, the faster you will have a more finished compost as this ensures there is an adequate supply of oxygen to help break down the materials. As you rotate, check the moisture level and add just a bit of water(1 cup or so) to make sure the compost stays moist. But, be sure not to drench it or you’ll end up with a slimy and smelly mess.
Use the Compost
Composting can take anywhere from one month to one year to be finished. Some will intentionally wait a year to ensure a higher quality compost, however this is not necessary. You will be able to tell that your compost is ready to use when it is dark and crumbly and has a pleasant, earthy smell to it. It should resemble soil and be fairly consistent in texture and composition. The compost pile will have shrunk by half the size as when it started. To use your compost, simply add a new layer to your garden or gently mix the compost into the first two to three inches of your existing garden soil. Rinse out your compost bin with water and Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap, allow to dry, and then start composting again!
Keep it close by. Your composter should be close to your kitchen and on a hard surface so that it does not sink into the ground.
Keep gathering materials. Have a sealable gathering station indoors so you can easily contain your kitchen waste. Also be sure to keep all your brown waste like dropped leaves from your landscape.
Keep it hot! Compost works best when it’s warm. If you are starting composting during the winter months, it may be helpful to add hot water to the first chamber to generate initial heat build up.
Bring on the Oxygen. Be sure to check air vents on a regular basis to be certain that holes are clear of waste and compost mixture. The more air your compost is exposed to the faster the process so be sure to regularly turn your compost.
Maintain Moisture. Be sure to know if your compost is too wet or dry. If too wet, be sure to drain your kitchen waste of liquid before putting in into the compost.
Practice Makes Perfect. Creating compost can be a challenging feat. So, if your first mix doesn’t work, take good notes and try again. By composting, you’re creating less waste, feeding your garden, and changing the world. It’s a skill well worth learning, so don’t give up!