Urban Homestead

Composting


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What is compost/composting?

In order to really learn how to do something we first need to understand all aspects of the topic. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that compost is “a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land”. The act of composting is “to convert a material, such as plant debris, to compost”. Composting is vital in the life of a homesteader because you remove the need to purchase chemical fertilizers, you’re no longer throwing away organic matter, and you will have great soil for future crops. The EPA has an amazing article that really goes in depth about composting. You can even search to see if there is a composting facility near you, this can especially be helpful to apartment homesteaders.

What can go into the compost?

A compost needs three things to really be able to break down properly. Brown matter, which provides carbon for your compost; green matter, which provides nitrogen; and water, which provides moisture to help break down the organic matter. Make sure that large pieces are shredded or broken down as much as possible.

Brown matter:

Dry leaves

Hay

Pine straw

Wood chips

Cardboard

Paper (not glossy)

Newspaper

Wood ash

Coffee filters

Saw dust

Twigs/branches

Brown paper bags

Egg shells

Green matter:

Fruit scraps (save citrus peels for citrus vinegar)

Veggie scraps

Aquarium water (freshwater only)

Coffee grounds

Tea leaves (most tea bags contain plastic)

Manure from herbivores (horses, chickens, etc.)

Cut grass

Human and pet hair

Flowers

Hedge clippings

What NOT to compost.

Dairy products

Meats

Bones

Oils & grease

Fats

Diseased plants

Manure from carnivores

Cat litter

Chemically treated yard waste

Charcoal

Cooked food waste

How to get started?

I would say the first step in composting is to know what you will do with your compost. Do you have room in your backyard to set up a compost? You could purchase a tumbler or build your own out of an old barrel. If you do not have room in your yard, do you have any friends with a compost? Could you dump your scraps into their compost? Joining garden and homestead groups on Facebook may open up more opportunities for a location to dump your compost. If indoor composting is your only option, try vermicomposting or have a storage tote compost on your balcony/patio. Once you know how you will dispose of your organic matter, we can move to the next step.

Setting up a compost.

You want to have your compost set up before you start saving your kitchen scraps. I keep a container (old Aldi bulk cashew container) in the kitchen to collect scraps while cooking and I usually dump it into the outdoor compost every two days or when it fills up. It’s not pretty, but I wanted to use something I already had around the house. If you want to have a more aesthetically pleasing container, I recommend this cute container. Starting out, I would use a plastic storage tote or a trash can for the compost. Walmart is MUCH cheaper than Amazon though. Before purchasing new see if you can buy something used form a friend, neighbor, or on Facebook. Even if this isn’t your ideal compost, remember that it can always be upgraded later.

Start by drilling holes in your bin for drainage and air flow. Then layer brown matter, green matter, and water. Once a week mix your compost up (or whenever you think about it). If you used a trash can, secure the lid and roll it around to mix up the contents. The compost will age over time and shrink as the matter breaks down. Adding red wiggler worms can be very beneficial to your compost. They help breakdown the matter and worm poop adds to your compost! A compost done right should not smell or attract pest. If it seems a bit stinky from your kitchen scraps, try adding more brown matter.

Get started!

Composting is great for the environment and your plants while providing a way to have less waste in your home. I hope you are able to find which way works best for you and your composting is successful!

2 Comments

  • Noelle

    Can you still put citrus peels in it when you’re not using them for cleaner?

    How often should I water it?? That’s going to be the hardest part for me to remember!

    • Ecomomblog

      Hi Noelle! Yes, you can still put the citrus peels in the compost. They just take longer to break down than most green matter. Also, You don’t want your compost soaked, you just want it to stay damp. Once or twice a month should be fine. 🙂

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