Posted by Taylor at Arbor Teas on July 17, 2010
Starting a compost pile in your backyard is a simple and effective way to lower your home's impact on the planet. Not only does it significantly reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, but it provides an outstanding source of nutrient-rich soil, which might facilitate you growing your own hyper-local food. And if composting became the norm, it would also lessen the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere by garbage trucks and trash processing facilities. So let's get started!
Building your own compost bin at home can be simple!
The first thing you're going to need is a place to start piling up your compostable materials. This can either be on the bare earth, or on pavement. If you choose to have your compost pile on pavement, you'll want to put a couple of inches of moist dirt on the bottom as a base layer for your compost pile - this helps to retain moisture, which is very important for the composting process (Source: Groundwater.org. Although not entirely necessary, many people choose to construct or buy a compost bin - something to keep the composting area tidy and prevent any animals from searching for food in your pile. This can be as big or as small as you'd like, depending on how much compostable material you will have available. It's very easy to construct a compost bin out of materials like chicken wire, shipping pallets, cinder blocks - whatever you've got!
The next thing you'll need is stuff to compost! This includes tea, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, breads and cereals, twigs and leaves, and even newspaper scraps. And of course, now you can even compost Arbor Teas' new packaging material; right in your own backyard! You'll want to mix up the materials as much as possible to make it easier for the organisms responsible for decomposition to get everything they need to grow and decompose your organic material. If you're having trouble getting the process started, try adding a few shovels-worth of soil or a small amount of commercial fertilizer to the mix. Most soil already contains living organisms that will decompose organic material, and a half-cup of fertilizer per 10 inches of compost material will help them have enough high-nitrogen material to grow rapidly (source: USDA). If you live in a place that is very dry or very moist, you might want to cover your pile to lock-in or keep out moisture - a happy medium of humidity is best when it comes to composting. And make sure that you turn your compost pile regularly - this helps provide the microorganisms with oxygen that catalyzes the process.
There are a few things you should avoid putting in your backyard compost pile. These include meat scraps (which will attract many wild animals), diseased plants (which could taint your soil), and weed plants (which could rapidly take over your pile).
This method of backyard composting should take a few months to produce usable soil, with some slight variance depending on the temperature and what materials you're composting (for instance, Arbor Teas' backyard compostable packaging will take 4 to 6 months to breakdown completely). This soil will be great for use in a garden, or as mulch to place around trees to help keep the ground moist. No matter how you choose to use it, you can be confident that you disposed of your organic materials responsibly!