Why is compost good you ask? Well, first of all, not only does compost reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, it also is an amazing fertilizer for your garden that enhances the soil and aids in plant life.
Now here’s the question; what do you put into a compost? There are many things you can add to the compost bin that are beneficial to your garden life, and they come in two groups: the greens, and the yellow/browns. It is important to know how much you are putting of each color into your pile, and you keep it fairly balanced.
The greens: The first thing we all think of when we say “compost” is kitchen scraps. Any peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, apple cores, rotten or moldy lettuce leaves, oranges, etc. can be added. Garden debris such as deadheaded flowers, fresh plant stalks. Grass clippings, seaweed, animal manure (horse, chicken, rabbits…); even weeds can be composted, as long as they have not set seed or grow back from the stems.
The yellow/browns: The greens aren’t the only important thing to add to your compost for nutrients, there are some very important yellows and browns as well. You can add dried plant stems (corn, sunflower, potatoes, tomatoes…), hedge prunings, dead leaves, small amounts of pine needles, and lots of straw (although keep in mind that in hay there are lots of weed seeds and grass seeds).
Keep in mind the things that are harmful to your compost, such as: diseased plants, non-biodegradable dog, cat, pig or reptile manure (contains parasites), any scraps that contain paint or other toxic substances, any greens or browns that contain petroleum or other residues, meats, dairy products, bones and fish, any glossy paper or waxed paper.
If you have a garden in need of some nutrients and you have the space, then all you need are three boxes, custom made to fit the amount of compost you will be producing. The first box will hold all the fresh compost that you create, and needs to be turned every once and a while to improve air flow. The second box contains half-decomposed compost, where only the toughest ingredients, such as fruit pits, still have yet to finish decomposing. The last box is filled with fresh compost, loaded with nutrients and is ready to be spread amongst the soil of your garden, just make sure to remove any rocks first!
Once your first bin is full, you may then transfer all of your bin 1 compost into bin 2 so you have enough space for more. You will need to stir, turn, or mix the contents of bin 2 around so the compacted ingredients spread out and permit oxygen flow.
If you are living in an apartment building or someplace where you do not have access to a three bin compost, have the space for one, or simply do not need one that large, there is always the option of using a vermicompost. A vermicompost is an indoor compost that uses red wriggler worms to convert smaller amounts of food waste into high grade fertilizer.