Composting is a simple, inexpensive way to turn food scraps and yard waste into “black gold.” Spring is the perfect time to get your compost bin or pile started.
Start by clearing a space in your yard or garden, and building a base layer of straw or twigs. Then, add materials in layers, alternating between brown and green ingredients.
1. Keep it moist
When your compost pile is dry, the microorganisms that help break down organic material start to slow down or go dormant. It’s because they need moisture to survive.
To keep your pile moist, water it occasionally or let rain do the job for you. Alternatively, cover your compost with a tarp or other covering, such as wood scraps or plastic sheeting.
A squeeze test is an easy way to gauge the moisture content of your pile. Squeeze a handful of materials from different areas of your pile and see if they feel damp, like a wrung-out sponge.
If your pile is too dry, you can adjust the moisture level by adding more carbon-based materials and more fresh greens. These carbon-rich materials have a higher carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, absorbing more water than nitrogen-rich ones do.
2. Don’t forget the chickens & farm animals
Composting with chickens helps you get rid of poop, yard waste and kitchen scraps without the stink. It also turns your compost into rich soil for your garden, ready to grow plants when summer comes around!
One of the most important things to keep in mind when composting is to make sure your pile is kept moist. A dry pile will not heat up or break down as quickly, so adding water regularly is essential to your success.
You can do this by putting a thin layer of water on your composting materials or turning the pile periodically. This will stimulate the rotting process and warm the pile, which is beneficial to your chickens.
Chickens naturally love to scratch, dig and forage, so they are perfect to help you build a pile of rich compost in your backyard. It’s a fun and rewarding way to get your garden going again. Plus, it’s a great way to get the family involved!
3. Don’t forget the leaves
Fallen leaves are one of nature’s most nutrient-rich recycling resources. As they decay, they absorb nutrients that would otherwise be lost in the soil and provide a protective barrier for root systems.
Composting leaves is a good way to get these benefits back into the soil. But it’s important to know how to compost leaves and where to store them properly.
Dry leaves (also known as browns) make great compost because they provide a high carbon source for decomposing bacteria to feed on. However, they are comparatively low in nitrogen.
To boost nitrogen levels, mix in a few handfuls of fresh grass clippings or other green organic matter.
You can pile up leaves as you collect them or create a fenced-in compost bin with chicken wire to keep them from blowing away. Be sure to turn your pile every so often for air circulation and oxygen concentration.
4. Don’t forget the kitchen scraps
Kitchen scraps such as banana peels, orange and lemon rinds, eggshells, coffee grounds, peanut shells, milk that has passed its expiration date and any vegetable remnants are great for composting. They add nitrogen to a pile and help to heat it up, speeding decomposition.
If you have chickens or farm animals, their manure is an incredible source of organic brown matter to mix with your food scraps in your spring composting pile. Grass clippings, prunings and yard trimmings make wonderful compost as well.
However, be sure to keep your food scraps separated from other waste materials and discarded in a sealed container to avoid unwanted smells or fruit flies. You can also freeze or refrigerate your scraps to reduce odors and attract fewer bugs.