Composting is natures way of turning organic material, namely yard trimmings and fruit and vegetable scraps, into a rich soil amendment. Below are easy to follow instructions which are also available in a flyer.
What you need to compost* Air
* Carbon (brown materials)
* Nitrogen (green materials)
Mix all these to make compost which you can use to enrich your garden.
You can purchase a variety of different bins or make one out of an old plastic garbage can, a frame constructed of 2x4’s, a tiered structure or plastic tumbler. If you make a wooden bin, pick a wood that is rot-resistant, such as cedar or redwood. If you use an old trash can, poke 1” holes all around the can. Your bin should be about 3’ x 3’ x 3’ to allow enough volume for heat to build up. A lid or tarp over the compost prevents it from being waterlogged by rain and reduces evaporation in the summer. Having two bins is ideal because it allows you to shift the compost pile in stages.
LA County Public Works offers landscaping workshops for beginners, and more advanced gardeners. Beginner workshops provide hands-on instruction on the basic techniques of composting, worm composting, water-wise gardening, and grasscycling. Advanced workshops teach you organic gardening, landscaping with native drought-tolerant plants, and integrated pest management (environmentally-sound ways to control pests). Back yard composting and worm composting bins are able to be purchased at a discounted rate at any of their workshops. For more information, please visit Clean LA's Smart Gardening page.
- Layer Greens and Browns: The best blended compost piles contain brown and green layers in a 3:1 ratio. Brown (carbon) materials include shredded leaves, chopped-up branches, wood chips, and straw. Green (nitrogen) materials include grass, kitchen scraps (no meat, dairy or bread), grass clippings, and plant trimmings.
- Give it Air and Water: To sustain the composting process, your bin needs air and water. A ventilated compost bin provides some air supply. Additionally, when you stir (or aerate) your pile you expose more material for the microbes to process and speed up the breakdown process. Stirring also prevents materials such as grass or leaves from becoming matted and smelly.
- Use a pitchfork to turn the compost about once a week. Sprinkle water over the pile after turning or whenever you add a layer of dry materials. The pile should glisten and the contents should be as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Moisture accelerates the decomposition and creates the ideal humidity for hardworking microbes. Make the top of your compost heap concave in the center to prevent water runoff. If your compost pile becomes too wet (your clue is a rotten smell) you can remedy it by adding more dry materials (including newspaper) and turning it.
- Some suggest using a commercial fertilizer or compost starter, but it’s not necessary. Mother Nature will do her thing naturally in time. One thing to hasten decomposition is to chop course or large materials before adding them to the bin.
Worm composting, also called vermi-composting, is a fun and easy way to make some of the best compost around. Just take your fruit and vegetable scraps and feed them to your red wigglers. These worms produce the richest castings (aka: worm poop)!
Photo below: Athens Services donated soil enhancing compost and LandCare donated water-conserving mulch for the public to use in their gardens. Mulch and compost and both excellent additives to any healthy landscape.