Common Sense Compost

April 30, 2015 by Kurt Hanarhan

Sometimes I catch myself in the middle of overthinking unnecessary things. I blame Google and my middle-aged mind; the combination of the two has made even life’s most common and mundane tasks seem important and complicated. Nowadays, there are just too many choices and sources of opinion on every little topic.

Do I really need to waste time looking up articles on best laundry detergent? Would my life change much if I bought different paper towels?  

Just jump in and do it! I’ll convince myself before too much time is wasted. This realization can feel great. Maybe there is more than one way to do things. A liberating idea!

Recently, I’ve realized that even common practices in the yard can seem complicated. Quick do a quick search on backyard composting, a very popular topic in recent years.  You’re sure to get multi-step processes involving all sorts of warnings and contraptions. You would think that you were splitting an atom. No wonder so many don’t even bother. 

But think about it. All you are doing is speeding up a process that is naturally occurring all around you. Your goal is to break down solids into organic soil amendments. No matter how you do it, it’s going to happen anyway over time. You can’t mess up! Put into common sense terms, it’s a lot easier than you think. You just need a few common ingredients, a bit of backyard space, and time.


1. Add greens and colors. You’ll want green and colorful kitchen scraps to add to your pile of compost. Use everything from carrot tops to wilted flowers, from leftover meatless pasta to old coffee grounds. Add in a small supply of grass clippings as well. To speed up your compost, try to break up large pieces of onion, garlic, and citrus rinds as possible. But don’t worry, they’ll eventually break down, it just will take longer.  To keep the kitchen clean, I fill plastic bags with scraps and freeze. Once the bag is full, I’ll dig a hole and bury the scrapes (not the bag).

2. Add browns. Compost is a mixture of carbon and nitrogen. You should keep a lot more (20:1 ratio) brown than green in your garden. But this is easy. Throw in leaves, mulch, chopped up sticks, and straw. Have an old Christmas tree, toss it on your pile. Small pieces break down faster.  

3. Mix and moisten. Air and water are important to compost. These elements make sure to keep things “cooking”. Use a spade and a rake to mix up your future soil. Add a bit of water if the pile seems to be completely dry. 

compost bin

4. Use your nose. Your pile shouldn’t smell bad. If a foul odor does occur, you have too much nitrogen...add more browns. The smell should be of fresh soil; think of the smell minutes after a summer rain. 

5. Worms and bugs. Does your pile have flies? Top with soil and browns. Lots of earthworms? That’s great! If worms are happy, so is your soil. 

6. Wait. That’s about it. It’s easy. No matter what you do, composting happens. The key is to not overthink it. You’re yard and garden will be a lot happier.