If you don’t have a compost bin going yet, now is the time to start.
The temperatures should be in the 50s later this week, and you may get a touch of spring fever. Starting a compost bin will give you a garden-related chore during this brief warm spell.
Your goal for the next few weeks is to start accumulating plant materials in your compost bin.
Nothing much will actually happen to the materials for awhile, though. Just as food doesn’t rot in your freezer, the material in your compost bin won’t break down while the temperatures are freezing.
The important thing is to have material in your compost bin. Then, when the warmer spring weather does arrive, the material can start to decompose into rich, fertile medium for your garden soil.
Begin with a garbage can that has a tight-fitting lid. Did you save leaves from the fall? If so, spread a layer of them in the bottom of the can.
Next add kitchen scraps.This is why you need a tight-fitting lid– you don’t want to attract rodents.
Sprinkle some dirt over the top. The dirt contains microbes that will help the decomposition process.
End with another layer of leaves. Repeat the process every time you add kitchen scraps.
Inside the house, I gather my kitchen scraps in a large plastic margarine tub with a lid. In this weather, I may actually wait two or three days before I take the scraps out to the compost bin. In warmer weather, you must do it every day.
Here is what you can use in the compost bin:
- Peels from potatoes, carrots, onions, bananas, oranges, etc. (Some people say that citrus peels are hard to break down, but I use them anyway.)
- Apple cores and other parts of fruits and vegetables
- Corn cobs (they break down nicely)
- Egg shells
- Coffee grounds with the filter
- Tea bags with the string and tag
- Leaves from your indoor plants (disease-free)
- Garden plants (disease-free)
- Dust from vacuum cleaner bags
- Paper, such as used cupcake holders, used wax paper, cardboard egg cartons, the paper sacks from sugar or flour, wrapping paper and tissue paper
- Pine cones and sticks (they take a long time to break down)
Sawdust is said to slow down the rate that your compost decomposes, but if you’re not in a great hurry, I think a compost bin is a great way for woodworkers to recycle such material. I throw in shavings from my pencil sharpener.
While you could compost lawn clippings, they’re good for your lawn, so you might as well just leave them there. If we get large clumps of grass clippings because the grass got very long between mowings, I will add the clumps to the compost bin.
You can compost newspaper and mail, but I prefer to just recycle them. I compost any paper that can’t be recycled, such as the items in the last bullet of the list. If you use newspaper to keep down weeds, definitely compost it when you’re through.
Here are some things to leave out of your compost bin:
- Meat (it harbors unhealthy bacteria)
- Pet wastes (pathogens could contaminate your vegetables)
- Weeds, especially if you can see seeds (You’ll get more weeds!)
- Diseased plants
- Plants treated with weed killer
- Anything toxic. If you don’t want it in your garden, don’t put it in your compost bin!
Do you have composting tips? Please share by leaving a comment!