Helpful Hints

Composting 101

While outdoor composting bins and indoor countertop composters may be gaining popularity, composting is not a fad or a new trend—it’s an age-old practice of gardeners everywhere. Composting is an iStock_000019555550_Mediumenvironmentally friendly, inexpensive way to enhance the beauty, health and output of your lawn and garden. Put your KC Bins™ countertop composter into use collecting kitchen scraps, then read on for some basic composting know-how.

You will have to designate an outdoor space for your compost pile, whether you buy an outdoor composting bin or tumbler or make one yourself. Some important things to consider are:

  • Moisture. Compost should be damp without being too wet. The bacteria that do the hard work of decomposing your compost material need some water to do the job but will become suffocated in too much water. Excess water running through your compost will also strip nutrients away and lower the temperature. To control the water that is introduced to your compost pile, keep your outdoor compost bin covered and make sure it has proper drainage. If the compost becomes too dry, let some rainwater in or add water with a hose.     
  • Oxygen. The “good” bacteria in your compost pile are called aerobic bacteria, because they use oxygen to decompose the compost material. It is important to keep the compost aerated, or loose enough to allow oxygen circulation. If the material becomes too packed, anaerobic bacteria (those that don’t use oxygen) will take the place of their aerobic counterparts, and your compost pile will start to stink. To aerate your compost, use a pitchfork, a specialized compost turning tool or buy a tumbling-type outdoor compost bin.
  • Temperature. Not only do aerobic bacteria need oxygen for decomposition, they need a warm environment to work in. Because heat is a byproduct of decomposition, you don’t need to worry about adding heat as much as maintaining the heat that is already being produced. You can do this by using a dark-colored outdoor bin (to absorb sunlight) and positioning it where it will get enough sun to be warm (but not too hot and dry).  
  • Mixture. Feed the microbes in your compost pile a good mixture of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich material for optimal decomposition. A good rule of thumb is 75% carbon-rich material by volume (such as dried leaves, pine cones and needles, and shredded newspaper) to 25% nitrogen-rich material (such as green grass clippings, uncooked fruit and vegetable peelings and scraps, and coffee grounds and filters). If you’re estimating by weight, use equal parts carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich material. A diverse mixture will speed up decomposition and will result in nutrient-rich compost that will benefit your garden.

Keep experimenting to find what works best in your environment and with the types of materials you are composting. Don’t give up—your lawn and garden will reap the rewards of your effort!