How to Start a Compost Pile

Food waste and yard scraps represent 30 percent of what typical homeowners toss out. By creating compost out of food scraps, grass clippings, and other materials, you can do your part to reduce greenhouses gases. Find out how to start a compost pile in Oregon.

What are the Benefits of Composting?

Composting may be one of the only ways to lower your carbon footprint that’s free: You can start composting at home without buying any new tools. Finished compost is a more earth-friendly way to nurture your plants than chemical fertilizers, which contaminate groundwater.

On a practical level, composting makes yard work easier. Now, you can dump autumn leaves or grass clippings into the compost instead of bagging them for municipal removal. You’ll create less garbage — since most food scraps are compostable. Composting might even save money. If you pay for garbage services, you can downsize your garbage cans (and your bill).

How to Start a Compost Pile

1. Find the right spot for your compost pile

A partially shaded spot with access to water works well. Select a spot that’s hidden — for curb appeal — yet easy to get to. Start a compost pile right on the earth, build a simple bin out of pallets, or buy a compost tumbler.

2. Add Carbon-Rich “Browns”

Scatter a few inches of “browns,” or carbon-rich materials, directly on the earth or add them into your composter. Since worms are already active in soil, they will move up into the compost pile and start breaking down materials.

Brown materials include dry leaves, dried grass clippings, straw, dried garden waste, newspaper, and other organic paper waste.

3. Add Greens

Green materials are high in nitrogen and balance out the carbon. Food scraps, coffee grounds, or fresh grass clippings are examples of greens. Don’t compost dairy or meat scraps, as these will attract raccoons and other wildlife.

4. Rinse, Repeat, and Troubleshoot

Wetting the materials helps start the composting process, so give the pile a good sprinkle with a garden hose. Continue to add brown and green materials in layers, and turn the compost every few weeks using a pitchfork.

You should start to see materials breaking down but if it looks like nothing’s happening, your pile needs more water, more nitrogen, or more mixing. Water, turn, and add fresh food scraps to see action. If the compost smells like ammonia, it needs more browns.

5. Sift and Use When Ready

Your compost is ready when it turns dark brown and smells earthy. Pick out materials that haven’t fully broken down, like corn cobs, then place the compost in a bucket to cure. After 2-3 weeks, it’s ready to use.

Composting is one way to keep your garden looking its best. Landscaping services are another way. At Green Acres, we specialize in Oregon landscaping services that protect the environment and respect our natural resources. Request a free estimate from us to green your landscaping services.

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