Large cedar wood compost boxes with composted soil and yard waste for backyard composting
DIY, Going Green

6 Tips for Pro Style Home Composting in the Yard

Don’t let winter fool you! Spring is coming and with that comes gardening season. Be prepared and compost your own nutrient rich soil using these pro tips.

You Can Make Your Own Composting With Ease

The late winter weeks mean a little more to homeowners who have green thumbs. Each passing day brings them one step closer to being back in the garden, listening to the birds and taking in the fragrant smells of spring.

If you’re itching to get out into the yard and want to step up your game in the garden this year, one great way is to start composting your own soil. Here are a few pro tips to get you started on the process.

Plastic composter in a garden - filled with decaying organic material to be used as a fertilizer for growing home-grown, organic vegetables (shallow DOF)

#1 Decide on Your Compost Bin

A small, airtight container under the sink for coffee grounds and vegetable scraps is usually a good place to start. Once you get outside, there are tons of great options on the market but the easiest one might just be a pile set a short distance away from the home.

If you decide to invest in an enclosed bin, be sure to look into a compost tumbler. You can keep your compost going year round, and the tumbler really pays off in sweat and time down the road.

#2 Choose a Method

If you do opt for a more traditional compost pile, you’ll find that the hardest part of composting is having to turn the pile every few weeks in order to get the fresh stuff mixed in. You can spare your back by layering in coarse material like straw, and pulling fresh soil from the bottom of the pile.

If space is an issue, use a pitchfork to turn the compost every 2-3 weeks. Mix the wet and dry material thoroughly, and move the newer additions to the bottom. As your pile grows, mix new items in more frequently but less rigorously.

#3 Know Your Compost

You can use grass clippings, young weeds or rotted chicken manure to give your compost pile a jumpstart. Fresh grass clippings and green leaves help with nitrogen levels, but also keep food odors and fruit flies down, too.

Once the pile and process gets cranking, lime or calcium is another way to neutralize odors and insects. If it smells like ammonia, then it’s time to add a lot more carbon materials and slow down on the nitrogen. Don’t worry if it seems really hot; that just means all your hard work is paying off.

Organic leftovers waste from vegetable ready for recycling and to compost. Collecting food leftovers for composting. Environmentally responsible behavior ecology concept.

#4 Add the Right Stuff

You can add so many things to your compost pile, and really reduce your landfill output in the process. Table scraps, fruits and veggies, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags are all great additives from the kitchen. Clean out the basement or workshop and add shredded cardboard, newspapers, sawdust and dryer lint to the pile.

All of your waste from gardening can go right back into the next batch. Flower and weed cuttings are a great source of nitrogen, while branches, dry leaves and pine needles add much needed air and carbon. You can keep odors and critters down by disposing of meat products and bones in the trash, instead.

#5 Get a Good Carbon / Nitrogen Ratio

As a rule of thumb, if it’s green and fresh, then it adds nitrogen; most anything brown or black is a good source of carbon. The best compost has two-thirds carbon material, and one-third nitrogen. If your compost has too much nitrogen, it will be very wet and smell bad. The compost will be too dense to work with, and will take too long to decompose.

Ideally, your compost pile is carbon-rich material. It allows the oxygen to break down the enzymes faster, and gives the compost a light, earthy smell. Using the straw layering method is a great way to keep a good carbon to nitrogen ratio.

Large cedar wood compost boxes with composted soil and yard waste for backyard composting

#6 Have Fun With It!

Above all else, don’t worry about it too much! Composting is a natural process that occurs even without any help from us at all. Of course, a little human intervention can get it moving in the right direction a bit faster. If you keep feeding the pile, you’ll be rewarded with fresh, nutrient rich compost for years to come.

Becoming a Better Gardener This Spring

This season, use your homemade compost to mix with soil and grow brilliant flowers and delicious vegetables all spring and summer long. The best part is, the more you grow, the better your compost becomes. Your yard will become a self-sustaining ecosystem in no time!

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Ben is a real estate agent and freelance writer. He's lived on the east coast his entire life and is just as "at home" on a snowboard as he is in the office. When not writing about local real estate markets and researching hot new tips for homeowners, he can be found working on his home renovation projects with help from his wife Melissa and their kids, Josh and Cheyenne.

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