Five FAQs if You’re Considering Joining the Composting Club

While we do our best not to waste food, it’s inevitable that some food in our homes is left on the plate or goes bad before it ever gets there. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 25% of American garbage is food waste. One way to combat the impact that garbage has on our nation’s landfills is to create a compost pile, and now is a great time to get started.

“You can start a compost pile any time of the year,” writes Nikki Tilley, the author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden, “but fall is the time of year when both nitrogen and carbon materials are readily available.”

If you’re considering joining the composting club, check out these five frequently asked questions from first-time composters:

What are the three main ingredients of a compost pile?
Browns (dead leaves, branches, or twigs)
Greens (Grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds)

According to the EPA, “Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.”

Where should I put a compost pile?
Whether you have a nice bin or you simply start a pile, you’ll want to find a generally shady spot, but one that offers the right balance between shade and sun. Convenience is also important. You’ll want the location to be accessible so you remain motivated to continue composting. A recommended size for your bin is somewhere between 3x3 feet and 5x5 feet.

What can I add to my compost?
A partial list of acceptable items includes fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, shredded newspaper, cardboard, paper, dryer and vacuum cleaner lint, hair and fur, and fireplace ashes.

What items should I avoid?
No one wants to be known as the neighbors with the smelly backyard, but you can avoid that by eliminating items that create odor problems and attract pests like rodents and flies. Do not include food waste from dairy products, grease and fats, and meats.

How much maintenance does a compost pile require?
Time is the biggest worker (taking anywhere from 2 months to 2 years before your compost is ready to use.) However, you do have a couple small responsibilities. First, make sure the water amount is adequate. The pile should be moist but not soggy. In addition, you should turn your compost pile every three to seven days.

“As your compost matures, you can turn the tumbler or pile less frequently,” the EPA suggests. “Some signs that you may need to turn the compost pile more frequently include slow decomposition, pest infestations, and smelly compost.”

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Practical Tips to Reduce Food Waste
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Edible Science Lesson on Waste
Get Outside and Start a Garden

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