Composting is an easy thing you can do that will divert tons of material from landfills and create amazing soil for your plants. The basics involve combining carbon and nitrogen rich materials to break down over time into a wonderful soil amendment. “Brown” or carbon rich materials include: straw, wood chips, cardboard and leaves. Examples of “green” or nitrogen rich materials are: food scraps, coffee grounds and plants. There are a few different methods I’ve outlined to start composting.
1. static pile: layer your materials in a pile at least 4′ x 4′ x 4′ alternating greens and browns and watering each layer. We are aiming for a a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio but to keep it simple just make equal layers about 6″ thick of browns and greens to achieve a suitable ratio. The technically minded may want to check out this link for a composting calculator from Cornell University to get a more precise mix but it is not necessary. Pile your ingredients and let sit for 6-12 months to break down then spread on your garden and watch the plants grow. Create another pile next to the already made one to add your food scraps as you generate more to have a continuous supply of compost.
2. Active pile: This method is similar to the static pile but requires some muscle from you. In order to speed up the process the pile is turned over on itself to add oxygen every week for the first month then every other week. By mixing your compost pile like this you can have finished compost in 1-3 months.
3. Trench composting: The trench method requires the least amount of work. Just dig a trench at least 2′ deep x 2′ wide and however long you like in your garden. Fill the trench with food scraps and yard clippings and cover with 6″ of soil. Then let the worms and microbes work their magic! Once the trench is filled in you can plant directly on top, the longer it sits the more nutrients will be available for plants. This method cuts out moving compost from the pile to the garden and lets you compost directly where it is needed!