Making compost from table and yard scraps

The benefits of composting are abundant. By making your own compost, you can cut down on household waste, improve your soil to grow healthier plants without chemicals, and reduce the costs associated with your garden. So the decision was easy, but starting this adventure was not quite so straight forward.

First things to consider…

  1. Space – For starters you’ll need to put your compost operation somewhere. Since hot, decaying organic matter has the tendency to stink, location can be very important. Ours is located on the far side of our chicken coop, away from the house. This makes it easy to combine the chores of feeding the chickens and emptying our kitchen compost container.
  2. Ingredients – What you put into your compost bin is going to determine exactly what you’re going to be shoveling out. Because of this, you’ll need to make sure you have the right things to add. The rule of thumb is to use one-part greens and two-parts brown. Bigger brown materials (broken up sticks and twigs, straw, dead leaves) allow oxygen into the compost, and nourishes the beneficial organisms found inside. We found out early on: too much greens will make your compost smelly, slimy, and will ultimately slow the rates of decomposition. We don’t throw everything into our compost, and getting a feel for how much of each didn’t happen over night.

This is a great reference table found at EarthEasy.com which we’ve been using:

Material
Carbon/Nitrogen
Info
 table scraps
Nitrogen
 add with dry carbon items
 fruit & vegetable scraps
Nitrogen
 add with dry carbon items
 eggshells
neutral
 best when crushed
 leaves
Carbon
 leaves break down faster when shredded
 grass clippings
Nitrogen
 add in thin layers so they don’t mat into clumps
 garden plants
 use disease-free plants only
 lawn & garden weeds
Nitrogen
 only use weeds which have not gone to seed
 shrub prunings
Carbon
 woody prunings are slow to break down
 straw or hay
Carbon
 straw is best; hay (with seeds) is less ideal
 green comfrey leaves
Nitrogen
 excellent compost ‘activator’
 pine needles
Carbon
 acidic; use in moderate amounts
 flowers, cuttings
Nitrogen
 chop up any long woody stems
 seaweed and kelp
Nitrogen
 apply in thin layers; good source for trace minerals
 wood ash
Carbon
 only use ash from clean materials; sprinkle lightly
 chicken manure
Nitrogen
 excellent compost ‘activator’
 coffee grounds
Nitrogen
 filters may also be included
 tea leaves
Nitrogen
 loose or in bags
 newspaper
Carbon
 avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
 shredded paper
Carbon
 avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
 cardboard
Carbon
 shred material to avoid matting
 corn cobs, stalks
Carbon
 slow to decompose; best if chopped up
 dryer lint
Carbon
 best if from natural fibers
 sawdust pellets
Carbon
 high carbon levels; add in layers to avoid clumping
 wood chips / pellets
Carbon
 high carbon levels; use sparingly

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