Learn how to create a functioning compost pile, in your own backyard!
What is compost in the first place? Compost is made by gathering plant material, such as leaves, grass clippings, and food scraps. Over time, these materials decompose (or break down) and can be used as a nutrient rich soil!
Here’s what our compost system looks like at YGP:
Mature compost! ← Compost is turned ← Community food scraps
Why do we compost?
- Reduces amount of waste in landfills
- Adds important nutrients to soil for plants to eat up
- Helps soils retain water
- Breaks down dead things and recycles them
- Creates healthy soil for your garden!
Important to Know: Decomposers are organisms that break down your food waste and turn it into mature compost! These are the tiny magical things like worms and microbes that are hidden in your compost. We love them very much.
- Bucket/container for food scraps
- Water source/hose to keep pile moist
- Pitchfork for turning pile
- Dead leaves or straw to add in
Location: Find a flat (roughly 3ft x 3ft) area in your yard near a hose or water source. You can fence this area off if you want to reduce disturbances from deer or other animals. If you are a renter, ask your landlord first – and let them know how they might benefit too!
Combination: Know the correct mixture that makes up good compost! As you start your pile, it should consist of two to three parts “brown” material to every one part “green” material. “Browns” refer to carbon-heavy things like shredded newspaper, dead leaves, or dirtied napkins. “Greens” refer to nitrogen-rich food scraps; carrot tops, fruit stems, coffee grounds, that will be coming from that container you are keeping under the sink : ). At YGP, we add straw to our compost mixture (to increase aeration and keep it from getting too smelly).
Rotation: In the summer, you will need to rotate/mix up your compost pile with a pitchfork once every week. In the winter, this should be done once every three or four weeks. This is done to make sure the pile contains oxygen which enables microbes to survive and continue breaking down the pile. You will also need to water the pile if it begins to look dry. Eventually, when the compost pile has broken down enough that it is homogenous, dark in color, and there are no large chunks of food scraps, it is ready to be spread in your garden for your lovely plants to enjoy!
Here’s what YGP’s compost looks like at the end of its time breaking down.This compost is almost ready to be added to the garden. There, it will add nutrients to the soil and help us grow delicious veggies!
Here at YGP we are pretty obsessed with compost! If you have any questions, the YGP team is always here to help you with any of your gardening questions. And as always, feel free to stop by and check out our system (and maybe say hi to the bunnies and chickens while you’re at it!).
Print out this chart and hang on your fridge as a reference for what you can and cannot add to your new backyard compost pile.