Scrap That Smell: 5 Tips For A Pleasant Backyard Compost Pile

Composting is nature’s way of recycling organic matter back into soil, as part of the cycle of life. In the process, it enriches the soil in your garden, while boosting its ability to retain moisture. Food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of total household trash, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; thus, composting these materials diverts waste from landfills, while creating a beneficial soil amendment.

Here are some tips to make your compost pile a success, even on small urban lots.

Get the Proper Green and Brown Balance

Compost in hand

If your pile smells or seems overly soggy, add more brown material. Image courtesy of wisemandarine.

Your compost piles should contain roughly equal parts green and brown material. To thrive, you must feed your pile nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. Brown ingredients, such as branches, twigs, straw, and dead leaves contribute carbon. Green ingredients, including vegetable and fruit waste, tea bags, egg shells, coffee grounds, and grass clippings all provide nitrogen. If you are concerned about attracting animals to your compost pile, do not put meat or dairy in it. If your pile smells or seems overly soggy, add more brown material.

Select the Compost Pile Location Wisely

You've heard the real estate expression - location, location, location.  Well, the same holds true for your compost pile. When selecting a location for a home compost pile, find a dry, shady location that is easy to access from your house, - this is because you will be bringing out kitchen scraps regularly. If it is not convenient, you are less likely to use it.

Deter Rodents and Flies

Use a closed bin to keep the compost pile compact, tidy, and rodent-free, especially if space is limited. If you live in a city, put wire mesh on the ground before placing your compost bin on top (to prevent rodents from entering your pile). Then, fill any holes with steel wool to close any gaps. Using a closed bin, like a Soil Saver is also helpful. To avoid flies and to minimize odors, bury green materials under brown. For example, keep a straw bale on-hand and sprinkle straw on top of your kitchen scraps.

Maintain Your Compost Pile

Don't just dump your kitchen scraps and leave the rest to nature. Proper care of the compost pile is necessary for the best finished product, and to avoid odor and fly issues.

Chop food scraps into 1-inch cubes, so they break down more easily and mix your pile weekly with a pitchfork to aerate it. Remember that air is a necessary ingredient for a healthy compost pile. If your pile gets dry, water it periodically until it is moist (but not soggy!). If you have an excessive amount of flies or a strong odor, this is an indication that it isn't properly breaking down, or that you need more brown materials.

Add Compost to Garden Soils When Ready

Applying and mixing compost into the soil before it has properly broken down can drain nitrogen as the compost breaks down. When your compost is a dark and crumbly, it is ready for garden use. Spread a couple inches on top of garden beds in the fall, and then mix them into the soil in the spring.

Happy composting!

Feature image courtesy of Joi Ito

Compost Critters: Vermicomposting Made Easy

Interested in upping your composting game? Consider incorporating vermicomposting into your repertoire!

What is vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is like composting on steroids.  The technique is the use of worms to convert your kitchen scraps and other organic wastes into compost.

What’s so great about it?

The benefit of this type of composting is that you do not need a backyard to house your composting pile. All the magic can happen inside a container with holes. Store it out of the way where you have space.

Vermicomposting can be done in any climate because it takes place in the container inside your temperature controlled house. Brilliant!

Required items:

1) A CONTAINER - As stated above, you will need a container to house your vermicomposting project.  This container can be plastic or wood but make sure it is not too deep.  Not having a shallow enough bin can lead to odors because a deeper depth is not ideal working conditions for the little worms.  Ensure that the lid is cracked or that there are holes in the bin. Store the container wherever you have space in your residence.  Make sure the temperature of your storage location is decently warm.  Don’t want to freeze nor roast your worms!

Vermicompost bins

Vermicompost bins. Image courtesy of Timothy Musson.

2) WORMS & KITCHEN SCRAPS - Within your container you will obviously need some worms and kitchen scraps. In particular, you will need redworms.  They work best in a vermicomposting bin.  The amount of worms depends on how much kitchen waste you will adding a day to your bin.

3) BEDDING - In addition to your worms and kitchen scraps, an appropriate amount of bedding is necessary for your worms.  Some good items to use as bedding include shredded corrugated cardboard, shredded paper, peat moss or commercial worm bedding (if you want to make that more expensive purchase).

4) MOISTURE - To top it all off, your bin contents especially the bedding needs to remain moist.  An easy way to apply additional water is through a spray bottle. Keep it hydrated for successful vermicomposting!

Vermicompost on 3! 1 – 2 – 3!

Alright team, you are now armed with the basic knowledge of vermicomposting.  You have the power to raise your composting game to the next level.  Go team!

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Has anyone tried vermicomposting before? How’d it go? Share below!

Feature image courtesy of Devon