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How to Compost to Make a Free Natural Fertilizer for Your Garden

If you’re someone who throws away a large amount of kitchen scraps–potato peelings, produce scraps, coffee grounds and filters, egg shells, etc., why not compost all of those nutrient-rich kitchen scraps and use them as a natural fertilizer for your garden? The benefits of composting are endless. First, it can save you money from garbage costs…by composting, you can reduce the amount of waste that goes in the garbage. Composting also turns all those kitchen and yard scraps into great soil for the garden!

What Can I Compost?

While composting can be very easy, it’s important to stick to some basic guidelines of what to compost and what not to compost. A compost pile needs a mixture of “green” (nitrogen-rich) materials, as well as “brown” (carbon-rich) materials. Think of the green materials as all of your kitchen scraps, and brown materials as yard scraps.

Green material that can be composted:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Ccoffee grounds and the filters
  • Egg shells
  • Tea bags

Brown material that can be composted:

  • Shredded paper, newspaper, or paper towel (not glossy paper)
  • Wood shavings
  • Dried leaves
  • Dry grass clippings or hay
  • Sawdust from untreated wood
  • Small twigs

What NOT to compost:

  • Any animal fats, meat (attracts pests and do not break down evenly)
  • Infested plants (could infest the compost and future gardens)
  • Pet waste, especially cat litter
  • Non-organic material
  • Plants that have gone to seed

How Long Before Compost is Ready to Add to the Garden?

Every compost pile is different, and depending on different circumstances, the pile could be ready to add to the garden in a matter of months, or it could be over a year before it is ready.

The process behind composting is basically breaking down larger green and brown matter (kitchen and/or yard scraps) into soil-like matter. To do this, a compost pile must be aerated by being turned, so that it doesn’t rot, and so each layer is exposed to the right amount of sun and air. A compost pile must also “cook” and get hot from the sun so it can break down. To reduce the amount of time it takes to break down, kitchen scraps can be chopped up before being added to the pile.

Compost is ready to add to the garden when it looks dark and crumbly, and none of the starting materials are visible such as egg shells, banana peels, etc. To be sure the compost is ready, an easy test can be done by putting a small amount of the compost in a sealed bag, leave it in there for 24 to 48 hours, and then open it and notice the smell. If there is little to no odor coming from the bag, then the compost is ready to disperse in the garden.

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