Composting is an essential practice for any homesteader, turning kitchen scraps and yard waste into valuable, nutrient-rich soil. This guide will delve into how to start and maintain an organic, chemical-free compost system on your homestead. It will also include what should and should not go in your compost. If you’re ready to take your homestead garden to a whole new level, this is for you!

The ultimate guide to composting on your homestead. Learn the ins and outs of composting. What to add to your compost. What you shouldn't add to your compost. And how to make your compost pile full of essential nutrients for your soil.

Starting Your Compost Pile

Choosing the Perfect Location:

  • Sunlight: Partial sunlight helps maintain ideal temperatures.
  • Drainage: Ensure good drainage to avoid waterlogging.
  • Accessibility: Keep it accessible year-round, close to where it will be used but not too close to living areas due to potential odors.

Building Your Compost Bin:

  • Materials: Use untreated wood, pallets, or chicken wire.
  • Size: Aim for at least 3 feet wide by 3 feet high.
  • Design: Ensure good air circulation; a three-bin system allows for easier turning and organization.

Starting Your Pile:

  • Base Layer: Start with coarse material like straw or twigs for drainage and aeration.
  • Green Material: Add kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and green leaves.
  • Brown Material: Follow with dry leaves, cardboard, or paper (non-glossy).
What to add to your compost. What to not include in composting. Learn the ins and outs of an effective compost pile.

What to Compost and What Not to Compost

Green Light for Composting:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells (crushed)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags (without staples)
  • Grass and plant clippings
  • Dry leaves
  • Straw and hay
  • Sawdust from untreated wood

Avoid Composting:

  • Meat, bones, and fish scraps (attract pests and cause odor)
  • Diseased plants (can spread pathogens)
  • Treated wood or colored paper (contain harmful chemicals)
  • Dairy products and oils (attract pests and cause odor)
  • Dog or cat feces (can contain pathogens harmful to humans)

Composting Chicken and Rabbit Manure

  • Chicken Manure: Rich in nitrogen, but it should be composted for at least 6 months due to its high ammonia content.
  • Rabbit Manure: Can be added directly to the garden or compost pile as it’s less potent and breaks down quickly.

Maintaining Your Compost Pile

  • Moisture: Your pile should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Add water during dry periods and dry materials if it’s too wet.
  • Turning: Turn your pile every few weeks to aerate it, speeding up the composting process.
  • Temperature: A healthy pile will heat up in the center. This is a sign of decomposition at work.
  • Odor Management: Proper balance of green and brown materials will prevent unpleasant odors.

Seasonal Composting Tips

  • Spring: Add more green materials and turn frequently to prepare compost for summer planting.
  • Summer: Regular watering and turning are crucial due to increased evaporation.
  • Fall: Add fallen leaves (brown material) to balance the green waste from summer.
  • Winter: Composting slows down but doesn’t stop; insulate your pile if you live in a cold climate.

Advanced Composting Techniques

  • Vermicomposting: Using worms to break down food scraps and paper into high-quality compost.
  • Bokashi: A method where kitchen scraps are fermented before being composted.
  • Compost Tea: A liquid fertilizer made by steeping finished compost in water.

Conclusion

Composting is a fulfilling way to reduce waste and enhance your garden’s soil quality. By following these guidelines, you can create a thriving compost system that benefits your entire homestead. Remember, composting is as much an art as it is a science – don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for your specific conditions and needs. Happy composting!