An Easy Guide to Start Composting at Your Homestead

An Easy Guide to Start Composting at Your Homestead

Matthew Davies image of a composting bin in the backyard.

When you are not living off-grid, you take for granted certain conveniences. One such convenience is potting soil for your garden. Fortunately, you can make your own compost for your garden and it’s often better for your garden and for the environment. It is for this reason that I, Matthew Davies, am going to help you start your composting pile. You will be able to use this for the garden you will eventually have, and overall enrichment of the soil at your homestead.

City dwellers living on-grid generally use composting in an effort to reduce the waste they send to the landfill. On the other hand, for those living off-grid, composting is a necessity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), composting is defined as “organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow.” Composting will give you more abundant produce from your garden, more profound and more vibrant colors in the flowers you plant, and overall healthier soil composition for your off-grid property. This can all be accomplished by selecting the best of your family scraps to add to the compost pile.

If you follow the easy steps listed below, you will be amazed by the change in your garden – and, as an added bonus, the amount of waste you toss out each week will drop drastically.

Why should I compost?

First and foremost, composting will reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of household waste you produce. It is estimated, by the EPA, that as much as 30% of what we throw out is food scraps and yard clippings. Not only will composting reduce the methane gas that occurs when organic matter breaks down in landfills and, is one of the number one causes of global warming, but it will also control the odor that emanates from your trash cans. You will be left with large amounts of rich fertilizer that you can use in your garden, flowerbeds, or donate to your favorite cause.

How do I set up a composting bin or pile?

First, you are going to want to select a location for your compost. You are going to need at least 3 square feet of space and a bin to hold the compost in one place. Storing your compost in a bin will also help contain the smell. A bin can be made quickly or you may choose to buy one online or from your local hardware store. Any of these three options will suffice. When choosing a bin, look for a container that has approximately a 3-foot opening and stands around 3 to 4 feet high. Be sure to protect your bin from animals, such as raccoons or the neighbor’s dog, with chicken wire or fencing.

What should I compost?

Now we are getting to the heart of this blog. You would be surprised by how much you can add to your compost pile. Some everyday things you will be able to add regularly are used matches, toothpicks, hair (either from yourself or pets), tea and tea bags, old newspapers, coffee grounds, and paper filters, cut or dead flowers, and eggshells.

The trick, when composting, is to add equal amounts of “green” and “brown” waste to have a healthy heap. “Green” waste is anything that falls under the moist matter category like fruits and vegetables. “Brown” waste is things that are dry, such as sawdust, wood shavings, dry leaves, yard clippings, or even old newspaper. Maintaining a healthy balance will keep your compost pile from getting slimy and smelling bad. Most likely, you will not have much of a problem supplying your compost pile with “green” items. You may find you will have a much more difficult time locating “brown” items. For this, I suggest that you clean up your property from all of the underbrush. This will do two things. First, it will supply you with much needed “brown” matter. Second, it will keep your property looking good and prevent fires from spreading too quickly. Additionally, you could contact the city or state and ask permission to clean up the leaves from a park that is near your location. You will be helping the park to look more clean and attractive.

It is important to note that your compost needs oxygen and moisture to properly breakdown. Without air, your pile will start to smell something awful. Without humidity, nothing will break down. I suggest sprinkling your collection with water every 2 to 3 days – don’t overdo it. If you live in a part of the country that sees a lot of rain, you might even want to consider holding off on watering – or finding a way to prevent some of the moisture from getting in your compost. You will also want to make sure that you turn your heap for maximum efficiency. Turning your compost pile means nothing more than folding the materials on the outside to the inside. This should be done about every month or so. When done correctly, you will notice that your pile will smell of nothing but earthy dirt.

Is there anything I can’t compost?

Obviously, you are not going to put anything in your pile that will not breakdown in the next year. This includes plastics and corrosive items. Additionally, even though they are compostable, you will not want to add dairy or animal products to your compost. Not only will it start to smell, but it can also attract predatory animals and pests. It is best to toss these out with your regular garbage. Also, if you have any normally compostable item (trees or flowers) that has become diseased or taken over by insects, you will not want to use these items either.

Conclusion I, Matthew Davies, hope that you have found the above blog informative and helpful. I continue to wish you the best of luck on your homestead. Together, we will be able to guide you through some of the things I have learned and help you avoid some of the common mistakes that can occur when living off-grid.

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