Top Ten Composting Tips

By Susan Littlefield, August 18, 2014

Gardeners love compost. Compost added to your garden soil improves its drainage, fertility, and structure. Recent research shows that compost also can inhibit plant diseases, help neutralize toxic chemicals in the soil, and reduce erosion. Quite a list of accomplishments for this ″black gold″ that anyone can produce in the backyard!

To help maximize your composting a success, we are happy to offer you 20% off your next Gardening With Kids order now through the end of September, with 100% of all shop sales supporting school gardens. Just use coupon code COMPOST20 at checkout.*

1. Add fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen, along with grass clippings, fallen leaves, and garden debris to your compost bin or pile. But leave out any plant material that is obviously diseased or infested with insects, along with weeds that have set seed or the invasive roots of perennial weeds. Don't put meat, dairy products, grease, fats, oils, or bones in your compost pile. Dog or cat waste is also a no-no. Collect kitchen scraps easily and efficiently with our Odor-Free Compost Pail.

2. Balance greens and browns. For the fastest composting try to mix approximately one part ″green″ material rich in nitrogen, such as food scraps, grass clippings, green plant debris, and hay, with three parts ″brown″ material rich in carbon, such as dry leaves, straw, sawdust, dried plant material, and pine needles. Our Junior Dual-Bin Rotating Composter lets you have one batch of compost ″cooking″ while adding materials to start a second batch, allowing you to make plenty of ″black gold″ to improve your garden soil.

3. Pick a convenient spot for your composter or compost pile. You want it to be easy to bring material to your pile regularly all year round. Convenience is key to keeping up with composting. Our Mobile Tumbling Composter can be wheeled to the most accessible spot so it's easy to add materials regularly. Place it near your back door for easy access during the winter months.

4. Keep your compost pile moist but not soggy. You'd like the material to be as damp as a wrung out sponge. Add a little water as you add material to your bin or pile.

5. Chop materials for the quickest composting. Small pieces have more surface area for microorganisms to work on. A power shredder is a great investment if you compost on a large scale, but you can also chop leaves with a lawn mower and cut up plant material with loppers or hedge clippers. Our Countertop Scrap Shredder makes it easy to prepare fruit and vegetable scraps for quick composting or to add to a worm bin.

6. Invest in a sturdy pitchfork for both adding material to your bin or pile and turning the material regularly to keep it actively decomposing. A pair of thick gardening gloves will protect your hands as you work.

7. Turn your pile or spin your compost tumbler regularly to accelerate the composting process by introducing air. Aerating your compost pile provides needed oxygen to the microbes that are busy digesting the organic materials in your pile. Our Compost Aerating Tool makes this task quick and easy. This is also a good time to add a little more water if the material is dry.

8. Compost is finished and ready to use when it looks like dark, crumbly soil and has a pleasant, earthy smell. You shouldn't be able to identify its original ingredients any longer.

9. Make some leaf mold this fall. Even easier than making compost, but not for the impatient, leaf mold is made simply by piling fall leaves inside a corral of wire fencing. Shredding the leaves first and turning the pile every six months will speed the process some, but because fall leaves are low in nitrogen, decomposition will take place slowly over a period of six months to two years. Leaf mold is a great soil amendment, helping to increase water retention, improve soil structure and provide habitat for beneficial soil organisms. It also makes great mulch. Leaf mold is a snap to make when you set up our economical Expandable Wire Compost Bin in a corner of your yard and fill it with leaves.

10. Let worms do the work! Vermicomposting is a great way to recycle kitchen scraps and other organic materials into worm castings rich in nutrients and beneficial microbes, making them a great addition to soil or potting media to boost plant growth. Keep a worm bin indoors over the winter months for year-round, active composting, even in cold winter months. Our well-designed Worm Factory has four trays, enough space to compost 5-8 pounds of food per week!

Check out all the great composters and composting supplies in our Gardening with Kids catalog… and start decomposing!

*Please note offer excludes greenhouses and sheds.

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