By Lazy Hippie Mama on April 14, 2014
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Whether you're just looking for a place to throw your lawn trimmings or you want to do a full re-vamp of what you're putting in the landfill what you need to do is start your own compost pile.
If you are like me when you decide to do something like this you Google it. What happens then is that you get a long list of articles (like this one - except not nearly as fun and easy to understand) that tell you how to go about creating what you need. Here's the thing... when I first decided to build a compost bin the instructions I found on many sites were so complicated I almost gave up. The bin designs included turners and aerators and solar panels. There were websites for buying specialty worms and insects.
Thankfully, I decided to plunge ahead and, as it turns out, everything is working out just fine.
Here's the main thing you need to know: Vegetal matter will rot and break down.
That's it. That's the one key to keep in mind. Now... can you speed up the process? Make it tidier? Balance the nutrients that you end up with. Yes. You can do all of that and more. But you really don't have to do much of anything to make your biodegradable waste turn into black dirt.
On the other hand, there are a few important things you may want to keep in mind. Here are some things I've learned along the way.
Note: If I was going to buy a fancy composter I'd buy one like this. It makes kitchen scraps into useable dirt in just a few days and it is far prettier than what I built out of pallets. You even get your choice of colors!
1) Don't put meat or animal products in your compost pile.
Meat will attract nasty predators and scavengers. I'm assuming that you're not looking to draw anything from rats to vultures to coyotes to your yard. It will also stink a great deal more than vegetal compost.
2) Do put a variety of other things.
Kitchen scraps and yard clippings, dead leaves, small sticks, egg shells, newspaper, cardboard... the more variety you toss in your bin the richer your mature compost will be.
3) Locate your compost pile in a place where the bugs won't bother you.
Insects are a valuable part of the composting process and your outdoor compost pile will be crawling with them. You probably don't want it right outside your back door where you're going to get a face full of flies every time you leave the house.
4) Do make sure the air and water can get to your compost.
This is not the project for a sealed, air-tight, water-tight bin. One of the reasons pallets are great for building compost bins is because the slats let the air in. If you turn your compost with a pitchfork or shovel every so often it will rot faster. If you don't it will still rot.
5) Don't put dog or cat waste in your compost - especially if you're going to use it in the garden.
Dog and cat poo can potentially contain some very nasty bacteria and parasites, even if your pet is healthy. Their digestive systems are just very different from ours. Those organisms can live in your compost pile and make you sick when they come in contact with food or through handling of the compost.
6) Do add rabbit or chicken poo.
Also, toss in the stuff you clean out of your hamster or guinea pig's cage. Cow and horse poop are awesome in compost but if you're already caring for a cow or horse your homesteading skills are likely so far beyond mine you stopped reading several paragraphs ago. These types of manure will break down quickly, easily and safely.
7) Don't expect things to go very quickly.
If you want to compost in 24 hours you need to buy the fancy equipment. If you just want to throw your scraps in a pile you will still get compost. It will take a long time. Potentially years, depending how big your compost bin is.
8) Don't worry too much about it.
You're working with kitchen scraps and poop. This is not the project in your life that should be keeping you up at night. Your compost pile should be a tool that helps create a space for your waste and generates some fertilizer for your garden. Don't let it be more of a project than it really needs to be!