Composting is one of the most basic concepts of homesteading and gardening.
If you aren’t composting you are missing out! There are quite a few benefits to recycling organic materials. We use composted material to fertilize our garden and plants in the spring. As plants break down you are left with pure organic nutrients to put back into your soil.
Composting gives us a place to put our trash other than the landfill. And in our old age we want to give back to the environment while not wasting anything. Composting allows us to achieve both of those goals.
A third benefit is that composting creates great worm activity which is also great for soil. Worms and nematodes tunnel through soil breaking down organic material. This helps soil in two ways. It is a form of natural aeration which soil needs to be light enough for roots to push through and collect the nutrients they need. The second way is that as worms break down materials they leave castings in the soil which help the soil stay rich and healthy.
So if you’ve never composted before where do you start?
Well, we started with one pile. A pile in our backyard where we put leaves. Then little by little we started putting all plant based items in with the leaves. Things like strawberry tops, tomato seeds, onion skins, lettuce cores, pretty much anything we didn’t need from the plant when cooking.
Without doing much to it, we noticed the leaves dissipating. So we added more leaves and more plant based foods. We knew enough to not put meat or non-plant base products in our composting. But as our pile started breaking down we wanted to be more efficient and produce more compost for the garden.
So we researched composting. Here’s what we found at our local extension office!
The two main elements of composting are browns and greens. Browns are items like leaves, paper, wood chips, wood ash, items that need to be broken down in order to dissipate. These items give off carbon.
Greens are your plant based items we mentioned earlier. These items typically give off nitrogen. It is helpful to have a 3:1 ration when composting. 3 layers of brown to 1 layer of green.
Think of it in terms of the brown needs something to activate it for it to break down. The green activates it. As the green stuff becomes nasty and gross the brown stuff absorbs it and turns it into something useful. If you have more green than brown then you have too much activity and nothing to break down. Or vise versa? Does that make sense?
We also learned the browns and greens need oxygen to keep the process moving along. So making sure enough air circulates through is important. So once a day in the spring, summer and fall turn your pile with a shovel or pitch fork. This keeps the process moving. You’ll find your composting won’t take long before you’ll extra fertilizer for the garden.
Here’s a list of brown vs green composting materials:
- leaves *vegetable & plant based remains
- wood *egg shells
- hay *coffee grounds
- straw *chicken poo
- newspaper *horse/pig/cow manure
- shredded paper
- paper towel/coffee filter
We’re sure you can think of others we have missed! While this list looks like you might not have enough green at your disposal we find it’s the other way around. We have more green than brown.
Every fall we collect leaves with the lawn mower, collect the remains from the chicken coop and shred any bills and papers piled up inside. If you do this regularly you’ll have a pretty balanced system and be on your way to composting! And before you know it you’ll have 3 composting bins instead of 1!
What holds you back from composting?
*This post is part of the Cape Coop Homestead Blog Hop!