When you are beginning to use kitchen scrap in the compost bin you’ll need to know these 5 simple SMART composting rules.
What is the best food for your compost bin? It is possible to have a healthy compost bin just from the leaves, grass, and plant cuttings in your yard and garden, but if you want to truly embrace composting – inside and out – adding kitchen scraps to the outdoor compost bin will give your pile an added boost.
There are some composting rules to learn about and follow when you are starting to put kitchen scraps into your compost bin. These rules will keep your pile healthy and working properly. The most easily accessible organic material that you can add to your compost will be nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps. The kitchen scraps are considered green food that you feed to your compost as they contain nitrogen – an essential element to the process.
Start by placing a container on the kitchen counter with an airtight lid. This will store the food waste in your kitchen until you can add it to your outside pile. You do not want to attract insects or pests inside your home nor do you want to be running to your compost bin every time you make a meal or snack. If your kitchen container is airtight you will also cut down on unpleasant odors.
Commonly used compost items from the kitchen:
- Vegetable peels and seeds
- Fruit peels, cores, and seeds
- Coffee grounds, including the paper filter
- Tea bags and/or loose tea leaves
- Crushed eggshells (but not left-over eggs, either cooked or raw)
You may be tempted to just scrape leftover food off of the plate and into the bin, but don’t. It’s important to keep any animal meat or bones, oily products, or fish remains out of the compost. That includes green salad leaves with oily dressing. These will not only attract unwanted pests to the compost pile, but they will make your compost smell badly.
Whenever you are adding your green food to the compost bin, make sure you cover it under a thick layer of brown food. These can be in the form of garden and yard waste or another carbon-producing item such as dry leaves, wood chips, sawdust, or small twigs. If you don’t have access to enough of those in your garden, add shredded newspaper or used paper plates. Even shredded junk mail and envelopes can be used as your carbon layer as long as you remove the plastic windows from them before shredding.
Also, if your food scraps are very wet or moist, in addition to putting brown food on top of the scraps you’ll want to mix some in with the waste too. This will enable better air circulation so the pile doesn’t smell.
SMART Composting Rules
The size of the compost pile and the size of the materials you put into it. The ideal size for backyard composting is a bin or pile 3′ x 3′ x 3′ or 1 cubic yard. Even on their own, a pile this size will decompose quicker than something smaller. I’m currently using a plastic garbage can as my compost bin and it’s working wonders on those kitchen scraps.
You should try to have your raw materials the same size too. Teach your family to cut, chop or shred the kitchen scraps before they go into the countertop receptacle. Using organic matter that is basically the same size is one of the best ways to speed up the decomposition process.
The materials in the compost pile should feel about as wet as a wrung-out sponge. In the summer watering may be required to keep the decomposing process going. In the winter, or during your rainy season you may need to place a cover over the Pile. Something a simple as a sturdy tarp will work and is easily removable when you need access.
Ultimately, your compost pile needs oxygen to support microbial activity and prevent the materials from smelling bad as they turn into black gold. Aeration is just as important as the size of the materials, so pile your materials in layers and do it loosely. An outdoor compost pile will benefit from being enclosed in a three-sided pen or even being built on pallets for better airflow beneath the pile.
Keep the ratio of greens and browns even. A compost pile should have a ratio 1:1 by volume of “green” materials and “brown” materials. A pile of nothing but brown materials will eventually decompose, but it will just take time, adding even a bit of green energizes the process.
A pile made of all green materials will smell horrible and draw negative attention from your family, neighbors, and the local critters.
Your compost pile can become available to your garden quickly if you periodically to speed up the decomposing process by turning the pile. This is often called “managed composting” because you are helping nature along by giving the pile what it needs to speed up. So, whether you choose to create a simple pile and let nature take its course, or decide to take a more active role in the process turning is the single most important thing you can do.
Give your compost pile a good turn, now and then.
When you consistently follow the five composting rules and have the right size pile and pieces, the right amount of moisture, adequate airflow, a balance of carbon and nitrogen, and turn the pile to speed up the process you can expect to get finished compost around 2 months after you stop adding to the pile.