6 Essential Compost Tips For Beginners

Make your garden greener and more sustainable with a compost bin. Use our 6 tips to get started!

What’s not to like about composting? No matter the size of your garden, yours could benefit from a compost heap – plus, it’s a great way to reduce the amount of landfill waste a household can produce. Use this beginner’s guide to get started composting.

1. Get a Bin

Compost bins now come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit small or large spaces. You can purchase one from a garden center, or you can make one using an online tutorial – compost bins can be fashioned from plastic storage tubs, wooden pallets, plastic garbage cans or even an empty wine barrel.

The natural processes active in your compost heap creates a lot of heat and can pose a slim fire risk. Avoid positioning your heap near a shed, fences or buildings, and make sure you monitor it, especially during periods of warmer weather.

2. Think Green and Brown

You need a mix of fresh green garden waste (think grass clippings, fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and tea leaves, vegetable plant remains and plants) and dry, brown matter (like dead leaves, dead plants and weeds, and hay) for your compost bin. The soft, green garden waste is nitrogen-rich and the dry brown waste is more carbon-rich– both are ideal for developing good compost. Place a layer of woody garden refuse on the bottom to create good airflow, and then layer green and brown matter whenever possible.

3. Think Beyond Green and Brown

Did you know that you can compost egg shells, paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, paper bags and torn-up cotton clothing? Add these items in moderation. However, don’t put any cooked food waste in your compost – it attracts vermin!

4. Just Add Water

If you have too much dry matter, a light watering will help it decompose more quickly. Your pile should be damp but not soaked. To help your compost retain more water, consider putting a lid on your compost bin.

5. Then Add Air

The final ingredient for successful compost is … air! Make sure to turn compost regularly (at least every couple of weeks) with a pitchfork or shovel, and make sure your compost bin allows air to enter. Otherwise, your compost could become anaerobic, with a slimy appearance.

Tip: Remove dirt and grime from your shovel, pitchfork and other gardening tools with a few drops of Dawn Ultra Dish Soap.

6. Use Compost to Make Your Garden Healthier

Compost can act as a water-retaining mulch, a liquid fertilizer (called “compost tea”) and a lawn fertilizer:

  • To use as a mulch, spread it in a 2- to 3-inch layer around flowers, bushes, trees and shrubs
  • To make compost tea, steep a shovel-full of compost in a 5-gallon bucket for two to three days, and then pour the resulting liquid on your plants
  • To fertilize your lawn, just add a 1- to 3-inch layer of compost to the grass, and then rake it to evenly distribute it. Over time, rain water will push the compost into the soil, feeding your lawn in the process

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