Composting for Beginners

by Sherry Brubaker, Ever'man Cooks! Teacher and The Backyard Bohemian

Florida is known for its long growing season and warm, sunny days. Gardening is great way to enjoy Florida’s beautiful weather and reap the heal benefits of all that gardening has to offer. Soil in Florida varies between clay, top soil, and sand. These are considered poor circumstances by gardeners because it lacks loam and nutrients needed for plants. Composting is an easy and effective way to mend the soil and introduce nutrients. It is a natural way of recycling decomposing organic material and turns organic minerals into microorganisms.

Green and brown materials are combined and break down to create a rich, nutrient dense soil that your plants will love! Green material is rich in protein and nitrogen while the brown material provides carbon and carbohydrates. The brown material acts as a food source for all the microorganisms, add bulk to the compost, and allows air to filter through the soil. Combine these two forces and you will have rich, dark, ready to use soil!

Statistically, starting a compost bin in your home can remove about 500 lbs of organic material from the landfills per household per year! This easy concept helps reduce landfill matter and repurposes it into something useful! Talk about up cycling!

How to get started First, start with a small bucket with a lid and an outdoor compost bin. Find a place in your kitchen to keep the small bucket. Compost kitchen scraps such as pasta, rice, vegetables, fruits, nuts/nutshe

lls, coffee grounds/coffee filter/tea bags, bread/grains, and egg shells. Avoid adding meat or super oil products to your compost bin. While these products are technically organic and will eventually break down, it takes much longer and can attract unwanted pests.

Empty your small bucket every day into your outdoor composter. Easy, right?

All these household waste products are considered the “green” portion of your compost. Now let’s talk about the brown compost.

Brown compost is considered organic materials that are brown or will turn brown. Food soiled paper is considered brown material and can also be composted! Tear up greasy pizza boxes into small pieces, paper bags, paper towels, napkins, shredded paper, and and uncoated (no wax) food soiled paper products. Lawn clippings, leaves, twigs/branches, saw dust, corn stalks, dryer lint, straw/hay, and pine needles are all considered great sources of brown compost material.

As a general rule of thumb, add 3 parts brown material to one part green material. If you don’t get a good mixture of brown and green material, your compost will not heat up (and runs the risk of becoming smelly), which is essential for the breakdown process.

With regular maintenance, the compost will be broken down completely and ready to use within 1-2 months. Keep your compost moist, like a wrung out sponge and use a pitchfork to turn the compost weekly, working from the middle to the outside. Whether you have a large plot of land, or a small backyard, composting can be tailored to your lifestyle and space. It’s a great way to reduce waste, reuse organic material, and rebuild soil for your garden. Most of all, it’s a terrific way to enjoy the most out of your garden!

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