What is compost?
Compost is an organic substance that helps plants of all types grow when added to the soil.
When you start composting at home, you’re keeping yard and food waste out of the landfills while creating a fertilizing substance that your indoor and outdoor plants will love! Here are the basics to get you started with home composting.
How to Start Composting
To make compost, you need three ingredients:
- Brown materials such as tree branches and dead leaves.
- Green materials such as grass, vegetable and fruit scraps, and coffee or tea grounds.
- Water to ensure your mixture of brown and green is sufficiently wet.
When creating your home compost pile, you want to have equal parts of brown materials and green materials. The brown materials contain carbon, and the green materials provide nitrogen, and when you add water, the moisture helps to break down both.
Quick List of What Should and Shouldn’t be Composted
✓ fruit and veggie scraps
✓ coffee grounds
✓ coffee filters
✓ tea and tea bags
✓ nuts and nut shells
✓ shredded newspaper
✓ cardboard and paper
✓ yard waste such as grass, plant trimmings, and leaves
✓ hay and straw
✓ wood chips
✓ lint from your clothes dryer and vacuum cleaner
✓ wood ashes from a fireplace or firepit
✕ ashes from coal or charcoal
✕ dairy products
✕ fats, grease, lard, or oils
✕ fish bones
✕ pet wastes or cat litter
✕ any yard waste treated with a chemical pesticide
*While some commercial composting operations can process food items on the “should not” list (which are known for releasing unpleasant odors and attracting unwanted insects), for backyard composting it is often recommended to avoid these items.
Starting Backyard Composting
Once you’re ready to start backyard composting, pick a dry, shady place that is close to a water source. Whether you purchase a pre-made composting bin or make your own bin with plywood or pallets, make sure your brown and green materials are sufficiently shredded and mixed before adding water to moisten the pile.
To add new material to your compost pile, simply mix yard waste in or bury fruit and vegetable scraps at least 10 inches from the surface. Frequently mixing the compost pile provides oxygen and will result in faster decomposition.
You’ll know the compost is ready to use when it looks and feels like soil. It will be dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling.
Depending on the size of your compost pile and weather conditions, your compost can be ready in as little as two months. Composting happens faster in warmer climates than cooler ones. Composting in colder climates can take up to a year or more depending on the weather conditions and materials.
Common Problems When Composting at Home
Composting often requires some experimentation and, with time, you’ll learn how to balance browns, greens, and water for best results.
If after a few weeks you don’t notice any changes, you’ll know your balance of browns and greens is not right. Also, if the area around your compost pile smells bad, chances are you have too much nitrogen (greens) and need to add in an extra dose of brown material.
Always be sure to bury kitchen wastes well under the surface of the compost pile. When placed on top of a compost pile, food waste may attract unwanted insects.
Using Your Compost
Once your compost is ready, use it for all of your yard or planting needs. You can use compost as an additive for your indoor potted plants, placed around your vegetable garden or flowering shrubs, or even give a bag of your “homemade compost” as a gift to a friend who loves gardening.
Once you start composting, you’ll never want to throw a broccoli stalk, apple core, or fallen leaves in the trash again!
Tommy’s Superfoods is Committed to Helping Stop Food Waste
Here at Tommy’s Superfoods, we are seriously committed to combating food waste both in our kitchen and in yours! Our flash-frozen vegetable medleys can help you cut back on the vegetables and vegetable scraps you throw away, without sacrificing good taste or quality nutrition.
Have you tried composting at home as a way to “recycle” your food waste? If you have tips or strategies for effective composting, share them with us in the comments section or on social media. We look forward to hearing from you!