Let’s start by saying that compost can simply be defined as “decomposed natural matter.” It’s made up of a combination of wastes such as fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, grass cuttings, tree leaves, used coffee grounds, used coffee filters, straw, and the like. Once these materials are broken down, they make a mulch-type compost that is rich in nutrients and minerals.
A compost pile can work for you in three ways: 1. It can give you a central location to recycle kitchen and other natural wastes. 2. Compost is a valuable, cost-free fertilizer for your flower beds, vegetable garden, and houseplants.
And, 3., by turning your scraps into compost, you’re not clogging up America’s landfills.
Now, let’s take a look at the possible red tape involved with making a Compost pile. If you live in a rural area, you can make all of these piles you want. However, if you live within city limits, in an allotment, or in any other type of regulated area, you might not be allowed to make your own compost. Check with your local officials to make sure you won’t violate any laws before you begin this project.
Three common concerns, which may be yours as well, with a Compost pile is: it smells, it attracts vermin, and it’s unsightly. If this type of recycling is done properly, it won’t emit a foul smell. And, by placing your pile within the confines of a small fence, possums, raccoons, and other foraging creatures won’t
bother it. Plus, the fence will hide the Compost pile so it won’t be an eye sore.
After the legalities are taken care of, it’s time to get started. The first step will be to find a suitable location in your back yard. The size of the location will depend on the amount of scraps you will have. I have found that an area that’s three feet long and three feet wide makes a nice, compact pile. You can then put up a simple fence around your future Compost pile by using four posts and chicken wire. I secured the chicken wire to three of the posts. Then, I attached the fourth side to the post by using pieces of wire. This way, I can unhook the wire and open up the fourth side. This gives me room to get in there and turn the materials.
The second step is to just start placing kitchen scraps and other waste materials onto the location you have chosen. For example, after you mow your yard, empty out the grass catcher into your fenced-in Compost pile. Instead of grinding up your kitchen scraps in the garbage disposal, place them in a bucket and take them outside to the pile. By having a Compost pile in your back yard, you now have a place to discard the tree leaves you rake out of your yard in the fall.
You can even put weeds you pull out of your vegetable garden or flower beds in your Compost pile. But, here are a few words of advice about these natural items: never place Poison Ivy, Sumac, or other toxic plants in your recycling area. Don’t place any type of plant that has been treated with herbicides or other poisons in your Compost pile either.
Even though cat and dog feces can be termed as “natural wastes”, these aren’t suitable for your Compost pile either. Neither are bones, meats, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
Now that you have started your Compost pile, it requires two things to successfully break down the natural wastes you place on it. It needs air circulation and moisture. To give your Compost pile a sufficient amount of air, you’ll need to turn it with a shovel from time to time. And, when Mother Nature doesn’t give your recycling area enough rain, you’ll need to wet it down with a garden hose.
You’re probably now wondering how long it will take to see the results of your recycling efforts. The length of time it takes to turn scraps into compost actually depends on several factors. You’ll know when your fertilizer is ready to use when it looks like dark, chunky soil.