How to Compost: A Composting Guide for Beginners

Last Updated on October 29, 2022 by Cinthia

As a responsible farmer or gardener, it is in your best interest to adopt the right methods that can improve your plant growth and yield. One of such methods you need to adopt is composting. There are a lot of ways composting can be of benefit to your plant soil and roots. Some gardeners believe that the best thing you can ever do for your plant is to add compost every now and then. But one major problem farmers face when it comes to composting is choosing the right compost for their plants.

 In this article, we will be discussing about some of the best ways to add compost to your soil and the benefits of composting to plant growth and development. Before we get into the details of this composting guide and let you in on all the secrets on how best to compost, let talk a little about composting and how it became a popular agricultural practice. 

What is Composting?

Composting is an agricultural practice that involves the addition of compost which is decomposed organic matter to the soil to improve the nutrient content and to support healthy plant growth. Compost is highly rich in organic matter and nutrients that can easily be added to soil for use in organic farming, gardens, horticulture, urban agriculture, and landscaping. When added to the soil, compost goes a long way to act as a conditioner and also helps to reduce the outbreak of pests on the farm or garden. 

Compost, in most cases, is composed of green waste which could be food scraps, grass, and leaves that are not beneficially for use as food for human consumption but fit to be used as food source for plants once it has been broken down. Before composting can take place, these green wastes have to be left in a heap for months so as to allow the organic materials to decompose to form humus. 

The whole decomposition process can be hastened by the cutting of the plant matter into smaller pieces and adding water to speed up the oxidation process. After this, the next step will be to place the mixture in a place where it can get direct access to air. This can be achieved by regularly turning the pile to ensure that each part gets enough air. 

How to Compost 

There is a right way to compost and a wrong way to do it. If you want your compost to be of the highest possible quality, you will need to follow the right procedure when preparing compost for your garden. Here is a better way to compost. 

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  • Begin Building Your Pile from the Bare Floor

If you want to get the highest quality compost, then you will need to start building your compost pile from the bare earth. By so doing, you make it easier for earthworms and other important microorganisms to breakdown the compost. 

  • Pile Up the Straws and Twigs First 

Since you already know that you need to build a pile from the bare ground up, you also need to make sure that you pile up the straws and twigs first. Ensure that they reach up to a depth of a few inches as this helps to improve drainage and makes it easier for air to circulate around the pile. 

  • Build Your Compost Materials in Layers 

After placing the straws and twigs at the bottom, you can now start adding the wet ingredients which could be the tea bags, moist food scraps, and seaweed. The dry materials will be the next to follow and they can be wood ashes, leaves, sawdust pellets, and straws. When adding wood ashes, it is best you do so in layers so as they don’t clump up and slow the entire decomposition process. The best way to speed up the decomposition process is to interchange between moist and dry ingredients so the breakdown can take place faster. 

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  • Include Manure in the Mix 

You should endeavor to include green manure in your compost. This helps to speed up the process by activating the breakdown of the ingredients. The best options of green manure you can add to your compost include grass clippings, clover, buckwheat, and wheatgrass or any other potential source of organic nitrogen. 

  • Ensure that the Pile is Always Moist 

To be able to get the best quality result in the shortest possible time, you need to ensure that the compost pile is kept moist always. You can easily do this by sprinkling water on the pile occasionally or allowing rain to drop on it. 

  • Cover the Pile 

You will need to place a lid on the compost pile, this helps to keep the moisture content and heat intact. These are two things that compost need to speed up the activation process. By using a lid on the compost, you also help to protect the pile from been damaged by the rain. You can use materials such as wood, carpet pieces, plastic materials, or aluminum to cover the compost. You can use anything provided you ensure to water the pile regularly to ensure that it remains moist. 

  • Turn the Pile Occasionally 

You will need to turn the pile once a week or biweekly to promote the supply of oxygen throughout the compost. This can be done easily with the help of a shovel or pitchfork. If you also want to include new materials to the mix, you can do so but you should ensure that you mix them in properly since you want them to breakdown quickly. 

How to Compost: A Composting Guide for Beginners

FAQs

How do I start composting at home as a beginner?

Composting is the best and easiest way to recycle your food waste. It’s also a good way to create a healthy soil that will help grow more plants in your garden.

If you want to learn how to compost, here are some tips on how to start composting at home for beginners:

Get a bin You need a large container for your compost bin.

You can use an old wooden box or a metal tub with holes drilled in it. The size of the bin should be big enough to hold about two to three weeks worth of food waste. You can find bins at most hardware stores or check out our list of the best compost bins.

Find the right balance for optimal composting, you want to have just the right amount of nitrogen, carbon, and water. Too much nitrogen can make your compost too hot, while too little can result in a smelly mess. Carbon is what helps break down the waste. Water adds moisture to the pile, but too much will turn the compost into a swampy mess. You can read more about this here.

Choose the right pile size.

The best way to compost is to have two piles. One should be large enough to handle the entire amount of waste you’re planning to compost, and the other should be small enough to fit in your backyard. The larger pile can contain everything from yard waste to kitchen scraps, while the smaller one should only contain vegetable or fruit scraps.

Keep it moist.

The best way to keep your compost pile moist is to put it on a daily basis. If you don’t, it may dry out and become anaerobic, which will slow down the process of breaking down the organic matter. It’s important to add water to the pile as needed, but make sure that you don’t overdo it. This will result in a too-hot compost pile.

Cover it up

To prevent rain from washing away your compost, lay a thick layer of straw, leaves, or hay on top of the compost pile. This will also help keep down any pests that might find their way into the pile. You can also cover the pile with a tarp.

Use a shovel Instead of using your hands to move around the pile, use a shovel to stir up the compost. This will help keep the pile moist and aerated. You should also take this opportunity to add any new materials to the pile.

Use a fork When mixing the ingredients together, use a fork instead of a spoon or mixing tool. This will keep the compost ingredients from sticking together and help break down the organic matter.

Fresh The best way to keep your compost fresh is to mix it often.

The compost needs oxygen to help break down the material. If the material does not have air holes, the compost will start to smell bad and eventually become stale and useless. You can also add leaves, grass clippings, and other materials to your compost pile that will add air holes to the pile. Be sure to do this on a regular basis so that you do not end up with an over-stuffed compost pile.

Use Compostable Material

Make sure that you use compostable material in your compost pile. It is best to avoid using items such as Styrofoam or plastic bags because they cannot be broken down by the composting process. If you use wood, make sure that you use treated lumber, which will allow the compost to heat up faster.

When shouldn’t I compost?

Do not compost in either the Fall or Winter. The temperature of the compost pile should be at least 60 degrees F. If you compost during the winter months or in the fall when temperatures are cooler, the decomposition process will be slowed. This means that the compost will not heat up as quickly and it may take longer to fully decompose the organic matter.

What should I put in my compost bin first?

If you are like most people, you may have a large pile of leaves, grass clippings, and garden waste that needs to be composted. A great way to start is by using the materials from your yard, such as leaves, grass clippings, and weeds. When you use this method, it will save you a lot of money on buying bags and boxes of compost.

How Does Composting Work?

Composting works by the complete decomposition of solid organic waste which is turned into humus that helps to improve healthy plant growth and development. Composting is an aerobic process which means that for the process to take place, there has to be a constant supply of air. But oxygen isn’t the only ingredient needed for composting to work. 

Simply put, you can say that for composting to fully occur, there needs to be adequate provision of heat, oxygen and timely human management to ensure that everything works accordingly. Just so we are clear, here are the ingredients you need to be particular about. 

  • Nitrogen

Plants need nitrogen to be able to grow healthy green leaves and strong roots and stem. The plant root absorbs the nitrogen from the soil which is then transported to the stem, branches, and leaves which helps is producing flowers and fruits. To add a decent amount of nitrogen in your compost, you will need to add green leaves and also include vegetables and fruits and ensure that they are kept moist always. 

  • Carbon 

Carbon is the energy source that speeds up composting. The oxidation of carbon by the microorganism in the compost helps to produce heat in the mix which quickens the time it takes for the entire waste to be broken down. The dry ingredients such as the wood ash, straws, and twigs are high in carbon and also act as a heat source to the entire compost. 

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  • Oxygen 

This is also a key ingredient that helps to turn compost to humus. The presence of air helps in the oxidation of the carbon which hastens the process of decomposition. You will need to ensure that compost is kept outside where it can get direct access to oxygen. 

  • Water 

You will need to add water to the compost pile regularly to ensure that the entire mix remains moist. This is to encourage the growth of microorganisms that are needed to ensure that decomposition takes place. 

When you add water, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen in the right proportion, it becomes easy for microorganisms to develop which in turn ensures the breakdown of compost. Without the development of microorganisms, there will be no composting so it is important that you take proper precautions and follow the procedure detailed in this guide. 

Bacteria are the most abundant microorganism needed by compost. They help to speed up the decomposition process due to their microbial activity within the compost pile. Other organisms such as yeast, molds, and fungi also play a major role by breaking down the materials that cannot be disintegrated by active bacteria. 

How to Compost: A Composting Guide for Beginners

It is also important that earthworms also help to improve the flow of oxygen in the compost pile and ensure proper drainage as they burrow their way through. So you want to be on the lookout for them inside your compost pile. 

With the simple yet detailed composting guide provided above, it shouldn’t be difficult to pile up your own compost using green waste from your kitchen or backyard. You want to make sure that you remember to keep the compost moist as this helps to ensure the presence of air and heat which are required by microorganisms for decomposition to occur. 

How often do you add compost to your soil, and how do you make your own compost? We will like to hear from you in the comment section.  

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