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Naturally Homemade: Backyard composting made simple and fun - anyone can do it

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Have you ever wanted to learn how to compost food scraps into rich soil but get discouraged by the amount of work involved or the costly supplies sold in home and garden stores and online?

Well, good news! Simple household composting doesn't require any more work than it does dumping your plate into the trash and taking the trash out to the street.

And you can create a backyard composting bin or compost pile without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on crates, barrels, tumblers and other equipment. Building a compost pile is completely free and you can create a compost bin for as little as a dollar.

If you've never thought of composting before, give it a try. Not only will you be creating rich soil to use in your garden or for houseplants, you'll be helping to reduce waste by composting leftover food scraps rather than throwing them out in the trash.

Composting is also a good way to involve kids in gardening and waste reduction plus is a great science lesson on decomposition.

Homemade Compost
Homemade Compost Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Homemade Compost

Making your own compost is simple and can be a fun project for both expert gardeners and beginners. Involving children in the process teaches valuable science and environmental lessons and provides a fun way to involve them in gardening and waste management.

Pick a Location
Pick a Location Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Pick a Location

Choose a convenient outdoor location for your compost pile. Near the kitchen, next to a storage shed or at the edge of the garden are easily accessible locations. Avoid hidden or out-of-the-way locations where the compost will be forgotten or unused.

Compost Bins
Compost Bins Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Compost Bins

Determine how much compost you'll be making and how much food waste you have to contribute. The size of the compost container depends on the amount of compost you want to make. Small plastic or wooden crates work well for small projects. Trash cans also make perfect compost bins. Drill holes in the sides and bottom for drainage and air circulation. You can find garbage cans and small bins at The Dollar Tree.

Compost Pile
Compost Pile Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Compost Pile

You don't have to use a bin at all. Creating compost directly in the ground is perfect for eliminating food waste and for those who don't want to deal with the maintenance of bins. Simply dig a hole in the ground, removing all weeds, and add your composting materials. This method is easier to mix and maintain, although it may be more susceptible to critter invasion.

Food Scraps
Food Scraps Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Food Scraps

Keep a small container near the kitchen sink or other convenient spot in the kitchen. Save leftover food scraps from raw fruits and vegetables, used coffee grounds, tea bags and eggshells. The smaller you cut them, the faster they will decompose. All fruits and vegetables can be composted. With a few exceptions, a good rule to remember is if it originally grows in the ground, it can go in the compost. Put another way - If it Grows, It Goes.

Egg Cartons
Egg Cartons Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Egg Cartons

Need something to do with all those newspaper ads and empty egg cartons? Instead of tossing them in the recycling, tear and shred them into small pieces for use in the compost. Adding these to the food scraps will absorb excess moisture as well as retain moisture necessary for decomposition. Do not use cardboard or computer and writing paper.

Foods to Avoid
Foods to Avoid Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Foods to Avoid

You'll want to avoid adding food or weeds with seeds and roots to the compost if you plan to use the compost in the garden. Adding these to the compost may cause them to re-grow in the compost pile or in the garden. Pumpkin seeds have been known to sprout and grow years after being placed in the compost. However, if you don't mind a squash or two creeping out of the pile, throw the seeds in. You might get a nice surprise.

Non-Compostable Items
Non-Compostable Items Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Non-Compostable Items

Meat, dairy and oil products are not compostable. Never add fats to the compost and avoid adding cooked foods that contain cooking oil, fat, butter or cheese, as they do not break down properly. Fats encourage mold growth and will prevent the other foods from decomposing properly.

Add It and Mix It
Add It and Mix It Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Add It and Mix It

Now that you're all set up and have collected everything, add the food scraps, newspaper, grass clippings and other organic waste to the compost. Mix or rotate the contents with each addition or a minimum of two to three times per week. The amount of time it takes to completely decompose depends on how often new materials are added.

Using Finished Compost
Using Finished Compost Photos © Malysa Stratton Louk. All Rights Reserved.

Using Finished Compost

The compost is finished, now what? Use it in the garden or as potting soil for container-grown plants. Encourage children to participate in the composting process by saving and adding items to the bin or pile. Even the youngest of children can help compost and grow plants. Consider two separate composts if you want to continually add scraps to one while allowing the other to finish decomposing. If your goal is simply to recycle food waste and you won't be using the compost, one bin or pile is sufficient.

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