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How to Create a Backyard Compost Bin
by Julie Bawden-Davis
Known as “black gold,” compost is an organic material made of decomposed materials such as yard and kitchen waste. Rich in nutrients and able to break up compacted soil, compost creates a more fertile home garden soil, resulting in healthier plants. Create plenty of this useful soil amendment with your own backyard compost bin.
Follow these easy steps to start a compost bin and enjoying the results that backyard composting can bring to your garden.
1. Choose a compost bin. A wide variety of compost bins exist. Find everything from stationary circular can style units to 100 percent recycled plastic bins that are specially designed to create compost to rotating drums with separate compartments that allow you to create two batches at once. The type of compost bin you choose will dictate how much compost you’re able to make at one time and how quickly it will make compost. Large models that you’re able to spin tend to make compost more quickly.
2. Find the perfect location. While you probably want to tuck your compost bin away somewhere so it’s not the center of attention, you also want to find a location in full sun if possible. Sun beating down on the compost bin will heat up the insides and cause the ingredients to “cook” more quickly and create compost.
3. Collect ingredients. To have success with backyard composting, you need equal parts high-nitrogen “green” materials — such as fresh grass clippings, green leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds — and high-carbon “brown” items like dried leaves, branches and twigs, wood chips and hay.
4. Prepare ingredients. The smaller the ingredients you put in your backyard compost bin, the faster you’ll have compost, so it pays to put materials through a lawn and garden shredder — especially larger items like branches.
5. Mix. Fill the compost bin with half green and half brown materials. Add compost starter according to package directions. Compost starter contains a blend of microorganisms like those found in nature that will jumpstart the compost process. With a shovel or pitchfork, mix the ingredients in the compost bin well and water until the mixture is moist but not soggy.
6. Turn and aerate. A compost bin exposed to regular oxygen will create compost more quickly. When the interior of the compost ingredients reach 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can determine with the aid of a compost thermostat, begin turning the compost and continue turning every day. Water periodically when the mixture begins to dry out.
7. Collect and distribute. Depending on the type of compost bin you’re using and the weather, you’ll generally have ready-to-use compost within one to three months. Finished backyard compost is the color and consistency of used coffee grounds and has an earthy smell. Remove the compost from the bin and mix it into the soil in your garden and potted plants.