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How to Compost Food Scraps

How to Compost Food Scraps

Improve your soil and reduce your impact on the environment by regularly composting. Composting turns kitchen scraps and garden clippings into a nutrient-rich, organic soil enhancer. Here are five simple steps to backyard composting.

Skill Level: Beginner
  1. Step 1 Begin With a Bin

    Begin With a Bin

    Compost bins come in various shapes and sizes, from commercial black plastic types to homemade ones of wooden planks or wire mesh. No matter which type you select, keep in mind these factors: first, the bin size should be at least one cubic metre (1 x 1 x1 metres) to build up enough heat to start decomposition; and secondly, it should be ventilated to allow enough air to flow through the pile to prevent an anaerobic environment, which can cause the pile to stagnate and smell. For this quick and easy project, choose a ready-made bin available at The Home Depot. Or, check with your local municipality; many make composters available to residents.

  2. Step 2 Location, Location, Location

    Location, Location, Location

    Site your composter in a sunny spot where the pile will heat up quickly (shadier locations are fine, but the compost will take longer to decompose). The bin should be convenient and accessible, making it easy to fill and turn the pile. Place the bin on bare earth to allow soil-bound microorganisms help break down the materials.

  3. Step 3 Feed the Bin

    Feed the Bin

    Any vegetative material and many organics may be safely composted. This includes kitchen scraps, such as fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags as well as garden wastes, including grass clippings and raked leaves. Smaller pieces decompose faster than larger ones, so chop up materials such as melon rinds before adding them to the pile. 

    Never compost meat, bones, fats, diseased plant material, invasive weeds or pet wastes.

  4. Step 4 Get the Right Mix

    Get the Right Mix

    Add ingredients in roughly equal layers of:

    1.) Nitrogen-rich materials such as vegetable scraps and yard clippings 

    2.) Carbon based ones, such as dried leaves, straw and shredded newspaper 

    3.) Soil or finished compost 

    The simplest way to do this is to top off a layer of kitchen scraps with dried leaves (saved from the previous autumn) and a shovel full of soil. Turn the pile every week or so to hasten decomposition, or add a compost accelerator.

  5. Step 5 Let It Cook

    Let It Cook

    When the bin is full, continue to turn it occasionally, allowing nature to fully decompose the materials, until they take on a rich, soil-like consistency. Dig finished compost into garden beds to enrich the soil.


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