Backyard composting is an effective way to reduce your household carbon footprint, and it can be very rewarding to produce your very own quality compost for the garden. While there is certainly a lot of science behind backyard composting, a little know-how will take you a long way. To produce your own “black gold”, nurture your compost pile by following these five basic rules:
- Begin with, and maintain, a 50/50 ratio, by volume, of “browns” and “greens” at all times. If you add a handful of kitchen scraps (which are “greens”), to your pile, you’ll need to add a handful of “browns” (like dried leaves).This means you need to keep a stash of browns handy at all times.
- Feed your pile a balanced diet of greens (the variety of food waste from your kitchen scraps) but no meat, dairy, or animal products except egg shells (these materials are compostable, but they require high temperatures and can attract unwanted critters). While a variety of browns is great (dried leaves, dried grass, or other brown yard waste), dried leaves can be used as all of your browns. So, save a few bags of leaves each fall for use throughout the year for composting.
- All materials going into your bin (greens or browns) must be cut down to 1”-2” in size. Smaller isn’t better. However, coffee grounds are ok.
- Dumping your kitchen scraps on the top of your compost pile and walking away is the worst thing you can do, generating odors and attracting wildlife. Instead, open your bin, dig out a spot with your hand, empty your kitchen scraps into the pit, add an equal amount of browns, and cover up the new materials with the pile, then close the bin.
- Keep your pile damp as a wrung-out sponge, and turn often with a garden pitchfork. Keep pile accessible to the garden hose and water it by sticking the hose, running, in the pile and soak it for a minute or two. Then mix thoroughly to even out the moisture content. Grab a handful from the bin and squeeze. Isn’t damp as a wrung-out sponge yet? Repeat above until it is. Watering and turning should be done ideally once a week, but no less than once a month.
During April & May, Boulder County is sponsoring FREE backyard compost classes. You can also buy the best bin to use in Boulder County, at cost, for only $55! Check out bouldercountyrecycles.org to learn more.
Contributed by master composter and avid gardener Melanie Nehls Burow. Melanie teaches Boulder County’s Basics of Backyard Composting Classes and has been teaching Composting Education in Boulder County for nearly 17 years.