One of the most appealing aspects of making your own compost is that you can get rid of food scraps in a more environmentally friendly way. Instead of washing dinner remains down the drain and feeding the garbage disposal or scraping the food into the garbage can, you can recycle most food scraps into a compost bin. The compost can then be used to fertilize a garden or be distributed back to the earth.

There are other common household items that can be added to compost to solidify the process. For if you only compost old food, the mixture will become moldy, stinky, and slimy. To help fertilize and decompose the foods, things such as dryer lint, cardboard, and fallen leaves can be composted.

To make the best compost, you need both brown and green materials. These materials help make up the four essential ingredients in compost: carbon, nitrogen, air, and circulation. The food waste is collectively called green materials, while the non-food waste is the brown. Furthermore, these compostable items can be classified as nitrogen and carbon materials, respectively.

How Composting Works

The first step to composting is acquiring a rotating composter. Whether you make one yourself or buy a five-gallon compost bin to get started, the canister itself is necessary to begin.

With small compost bins now available on the market, it’s easy for everyone from city-dwellers to country-lovers to compost their organic materials and return them back to the earth. Collect the nitrogen materials in the kitchen as you go through the scraps during the week, and add the carbon materials after doing yard work around the house to help keep your home in tip-top shape and build your compost as you go.

Follow these steps:

  1. Start with a layer of brown materials (carbon) in the bottom of the compost pail.
  2. Add green materials (nitrogen) as necessary.
  3. After a few inches of green materials pile up, add more brown materials. Maintain a ratio of 25-30:1 brown materials to green materials for the best compost mixture.
  4. Turn the compost thoroughly.
  5. Add more green and brown materials until the compost bin is full or cannot easily turn.
  6. Dump the compostable material in your garden or another place where nutrient-rich dirt will be welcomed.

Compostable Materials

Compost scientists referred to on Planet Natural Research Center state the best ratio for creating your own compostable soil is to use 25-30 parts of carbon (brown) materials and only one part nitrogen (green) materials.

This ratio is derived from the natural composition of soil, which has a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 25-30:1. Too much nitrogen can lead to the compost being soggy and moldy, while carbon materials alone won’t decompose into a fertile soil. The ratio can also vary depending on the specific types of materials used. The Planet Natural resource linked above has a chart that gives greater detail to the recommended ratios for the different materials.

The other two “ingredients” in compost are air and circulation, which aren’t necessarily materials to add to the mixture but rather pieces that complete the scientific puzzle.

Carbon

Most of the compost mixture will be made up of the brown, carbon materials. Making up nearly 97 percent of the entire compost, these carbon materials are necessary to prevent the pile from stinking and for maintaining a dirt-like texture.

Common carbon materials for composting are:

  • Non-treated wood ashes
  • Cardboard (shredded)
  • Corn stalks
  • Dryer lint
  • Fruit scraps
  • Leaves
  • Newspaper (shredded)
  • Peanut shells
  • Pine needles
  • Sawdust
  • Straw
  • Wood chips

Nitrogen

The compostable materials scientifically known as the nitrogen component are the proteins in the mixture. As stated above, there are significantly fewer nitrogen materials in a healthy compost mixture. Only 1/30th of the compost should be the green, nitrogen ingredients. Some homeowners will add more green materials and put up with a stinkier pile in order to make sure there is always enough protein to keep the brown materials active to help decompose the organic waste.

Common nitrogen materials for composting are:

  • Alfalfa
  • Clover
  • Coffee grounds
  • Food waste
  • Garden waste
  • Grass clippings
  • Hay
  • Manures
  • Seaweed
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Weeds*

*If you plan on using your compost mixture in a produce garden, you may not want to add weeds because that introduces the weed to your garden, which you’ll later have to pick. Only use weeds if you’ll be dumping your compost in a pile that won’t be used to grow new produce.

Air

Together, the brown and green materials create bacteria that actively work to decompose the waste and turn it into fertile soil. However, this wouldn’t be possible without oxygen because the bacteria needs air to stay alive. Aerobic bacteria are specifically good for composting because they decompose at a fast rate, which means more compost for you! To stay active, aerobic bacteria need oxygen levels to hold higher than 5 percent; otherwise, the rate of decomposition can slow as much as 90 percent, according to the University of Illinois Extension’s article about The Science of Composting.

Turning

While turning isn’t something you put in the compost as an ingredient, it is a necessary action to help the other materials work together and decompose. It is important to turn the compost pile in order to introduce air throughout the entire mixture. It is recommended to turn the mixture after a few inches of the green, nitrogen materials are acquired.

Composting With The Earth 2 Earth Rotating Composter

The Earth 2 Earth Rotating Composter is a five-gallon, reusable compost bin that is ideal for homeowners living in the city or suburbs who have a desire to save our planet. The bin is made for easy use. It comes with a package of peat moss and pine bedding to get you started with carbon materials, and it is designed with a handle on the outside that rotates an internal auger, making it easy to turn the entire mixture. It’s our goal to make composting affordable and accessible for anyone who wants to make the earth a better place. Plus, it’s made in America – does it get better than this?