Does your garbage can runneth over? Consider composting. If you find yourself with more garbage than you know what to do with, it might be time to consider composting.

soilSan Francisco is considered the greenest city in the United States. A while back they announced a state goal to achieve zero waste by the year 2020, and by waste they are of course referring to landfill waste. Composting is there and every resident gets a free composting bin.

For people living outside San Francisco, it’s not quite as easy in some cities: They charge you for bins and other don’t even offer them, which sucks. But that’s ok because it is super easy to do this yourself and it is great for the environment.

So what is compost? In a nutshell, it is a collection of organic waste, aka food and plants that decomposes over several months and eventually turns into humus, which is an extremely nutrient-rich soil. What’s special about is that in addition to eliminating unnecessary landfill waste, the soil it produces can also be used as an organic fertilizer for your garden.

So all composting requires is three basic ingredients. You need water and you need an equal amount of browns and greens. Browns are going to be things lie tree matter, dead leaves, branches, twigs, saw dusts, etc. Basically things that are typically dry. Greens are going to be more wet things such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, food scraps, etc. You do not want to put any meat, dairy or bread in your compost because those things are going to rot and attract pest which would be terrible.

Also, it is recommended that you do this outdoors. If you live in an apartment or you don’t have a backyard, you can do it indoors, but it’s a little bit trickier and it needs more maintenance. This article will demonstrate how to start a compost outside.

First thing first, you want to select a container for your compost and place it in a grassy, relatively shady part of your yard. If you are handy, you can build the container yourself or you can just buy one from any home garden store. Make sure that it’s the right size: you want it to fit everything that you have but also not be too big. You also want your compost to be touching the ground, so make sure whatever container you use does not have a bottom on it.

Next, you’ll want to start by laying a few inches of twigs or straw at the bottom and then you can start adding waste. The biggest rule to remember here when composting is that you want an equal balance of nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. Nitrogen is going to be found in those green things listed earlier and carbon is going to be found in the brown stuff.

You will want to chop up any big materials before you put them in and it’s also important to try to avoid any highly processed foods which can take longer to break down. Generally speaking, as long as you maintain that balanced materials the compost will naturally begin to attract all of its organisms that eventually break it down.

Once you set everything up and add in your waste, it’s pretty much hands off from there. If you’re going to be adding new scraps regularly, it is suggested that you bury them in the center of the pile.

If you notice that your pile is getting too dry, just water it a bit and if it’s really hot or raining outside, it might also help to cover it with something to maintain the right balance of moisture.

After a few months your compost should be ready to use. You will know when it turns into a nice dark brown color and develops an earthy smell and warm to the touch, which is a product of all of those microbes living inside.

At this point, you can take it out and mix the compost soil into your garden. Just remember that this should be used as an additive and not as sole source of soil for your garden.

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