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Anything I need to know to start a compost heap?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
DH and I have been talking about starting a compost heap in the back garden. We have plenty of room, but we'd need something that little people can't get into (we have a 28 month old and a 9 month old). DH's family had one growing up, and he said it always stayed at the same level, no matter how much stuff they put into it...

Anyway - is there anything we should know to start off? Or can we just buy a composter and start throwing stuff in it? Any suggestions on the best kind of composter to buy? I really know nothing about this kind of thing. Oh - it rains a lot here, if that makes any difference?
post #2 of 7
I'm a newbie, but I had one suggestion. Go to the library and look up Organic Gardening. They have all sorts of info on composting...

post #3 of 7
Our local county solid waste division offers nice composters really cheap, as well as some instruction on their use. Perhaps your local area has a similar program?

I do know that vegetable kitchen waste is ok, but no meat!

and most of what I've read says to have equal ammounts of "brown" and "green" (like dead leaves vs. lawn clippings)

Have fun!
post #4 of 7


You only need to follow a "recipe" if you want the compost fast. The ratio of browns to greens, how to layer, turning, etc only matter if you're trying to get compost ready quite quickly (for instance, for the upcoming gardening season). If you just throw everything into a big pile and do nothing else you'll *still* eventually get nice fertile compost... it just takes longer! You might get more of a stink too, if you don't add enough browns to your greens. (By the way, in case you don't know - "browns" refer to dry things like fallen leaves, brown paper bags. small twigs and sticks, etc, and greens are the nice ripe smelly things like fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, etc)

I use a composter I ordered from my county at a discounted price. It's simple and great. It's a big plastic barrel type thing with a lid that comes off and small holes to let rainwater in. It's rodent-proof. My mother uses an old plastic trashcan with the bottom cut off. We both just throw things in. I can't be bothered to turn it worry about the ratios of stuff. I put in stuff like veggie and fruit scraps, moldy bread, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, brown paper bags, cut grass, dead leaves. It doesn't smell much at all.

Good luck! It's a great way to cut down on your garbage and make some great fertile soil!
post #5 of 7
What bigcats said about adding lots of browns is key to keeping the smell down. I've had stinky, rat infested compost piles, and nice non-smelly ones. The non-smelly ones are the result of a well raked yard and lots of layering.

We have a tumbler composter, which works well and fast, but tends to be messy and stinky. My favorite composter is the one my husband built in the back yard. He took downed tree limbs and stuck them in the ground in a circle. He then wove smaller branches (or you can use woody weeds, sunflower stalks, etc.) through the branches. We layered kitchen waste and garden waste and it looks cool, smells okay, and works great!

Happy rotting,
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the tips - especially about the 'brown' stuff to keep down the smell. :-) I'll need to go to our local garden centre and see what they have in the way of composters there...

Thanks again! It seems such an easy way to recycle without much hassle (as opposed to filling my back bathroom up with bottles waiting to go to the bottle bank...) We really must do something about those...
post #7 of 7

leaf vac for shredding leaves, anyone?

I started my first pile last October, I think. Mostly leaves and spent stuff that I cleared from the garden. I read that it's best to shred leaves, for quicker decomposition (and so you can put more in the bin, my pile has settled to about a 3rd of what it was). I almost started looking at leaf vacs, since it would be nice to have the shredded leaves for top dressing and mulch and compost, too. Anyone use a leaf vac? Goes against my "green" instincts, but an electric one sounds pretty handy. I tried renting one but they only rent huge chipper shredders around here.
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