Great compost in five easy steps

A backyard compost bin provides an organic, humus-like product that can enhance your soil by increasing organic matter and adding beneficial organisms to create a balanced soil ecosystem.

Anyone who prepares food to eat or grows plants has plant-waste material to discard. From grass clippings and weeds to banana peels and coffee, composting is one of the best options for managing this kind of organic waste. Many municipalities provide a “green bin” for organic yard waste which makes it easy and convenient for urban homeowners. However, a lot of people don’t have this option or opt to keep their organic waste for themselves using a backyard compost bin.

Composting in your back yard is easy and does not require a lot of time or money; unless of course you want it to. Bins can be as complicated as a simple pile in the corner of your garden to a beautiful purchased bin that looks more like yard art. It is your choice. You can make your own beautiful organic compost in five easy steps.

Step one
Determine where you want to put your pile or bin. Make sure it is close enough to be convenient so you will use it, but not so far from your gardens that it creates more work. It needs to be protected from too much sun and you have to be able to water it when needed.

Step two
Decide on what kind of bin you want. Something practical and cheap might be the 5-minute pallet bin or something that suits your landscape and keeps the neighbors happy might be a “stealth” compost style bin. Here you are only limited by your own imagination. I have a beehive style bin that we made ourselves.

Step three
Add your materials. Layering them in and moistening with water as you go is the best way to start. Avoid adding materials like meat scraps, dairy and pet wastes as these items will attract unwanted pests and can harbor harmful bacteria. There is a great table of what can be added in the composting fact sheet from Ohio State University. It also has other great back yard composting information that you may find useful.

Step four
Turn your compost. You can turn it a lot or you can turn it a little. It all depends on how fast you want it to work and how fast you want to use your finished product. Add new materials in layers and add some soil. Keep it watered so it stays moist like a wrung out sponge.

Step five
Use your finished compost. When your compost is earthy smelling and crumbly, and appears like a dark soil it is ready for use. Put compost around your plants to improve soil structure; add some to your houseplants and mix into your vegetable garden when you plant.

If you are serious about your composting you can visit Cornell University’s composting website where you can find several fact sheets for composting for any size operation. For the real serious composter in you I recommend that you also visit the Michigan Recycling Coalition and The U.S. Composting Council the State and National organizations that sponsor the annual celebration of compost during National Compost Awareness Week.

For more information about vegetable gardening in Michigan visit the Gardening in Michigan website..

Participate in International Compost awareness week May 6-12, 2012 by talking about composting.

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