Most of us generate more food waste than we may realize. We often throw out vegetable and fruit skins, coffee grounds, and other biodegradable food products without realizing the uses these things have in our daily lives.
Composting is the perfect activity to reuse these waste products efficiently while teaching kids how to be eco-friendly in the process. Follow these tips to learn how to start a thriving compost pile right from your backyard.
Know What to Compost (and What Not to)
Before you can start your composting journey, it’s important to understand what compost is. Compost is the result of organic matter decomposition over time into a form of high-nutrient plant fertilizer. The process provides an eco-friendly alternative to throwing those materials away or recycling them.
However, you can’t compost every single scrap from your kitchen. Knowing what can and can’t go into a compost pile is important because some organic matter does not decompose and can even destroy your compost.
Gardeners refer to compostable materials in two categories: greens and browns. Greens are nitrogen-rich scraps like fruits and veggies, and browns are carbon-rich materials like eggs and dead leaves. It’s best to avoid including waste materials that can poison your compost, such as meat, coal, dairy, and oils.
For a more extensive guide on what can and can’t be composted, reference this free kitchen printable.
Familiarize Yourself with the Process
Now that you understand what materials are compostable, you can start assembling your compost pile! This is a fun and simple activity to do with kids, and all you need is your greens and browns and some outdoor space. Plus, maintaining your compost takes just a few minutes each week.
The first step is finding a spot that’s shady enough to avoid direct sunlight. If you’re working in a space with not much natural shade, you can make a DIY shaded bin using wooden pallets, or you can even dig a hole for your compost.
Once you’ve scoped out a spot and gathered the scraps for your pile, you’re ready to layer your compost. The first layer should be a thick pile of browns, followed by a smaller layer of greens. Continue this procedure while sprinkling nutrient-rich topsoil and adding water between each layer until you run out of organic material.
Throughout the process, check that your soil is moist but not too soggy to make sure you aren’t overwatering. Also, go back to your pile once or twice a week and use a shovel to aerate the compost and ensure it’s always warm and humid.
The organic material in your pile will break down over the next two to four months. Before you start using your new compost, there are a few important things to make sure it has:
- A healthy, earthy smell
- A crumbly texture
- No large chunks or scraps of organic matter
Once you’ve checked off these three things, you’re ready to sprinkle your compost throughout the garden! Your kids will love seeing their hard work come to life as their nutrient-rich plants grow to be big and strong.
Check out the following visual from The Zebra for even more information on building the perfect compost pile!
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