How To Make Your Own Compost For Gardening

How To Make Your Own Compost For Gardening

Why Use Compost?

Composting is a great way to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden while also reducing your household waste. If you’re a gardener in Northern Michigan, creating your own compost can be especially helpful as the region has shorter growing seasons and cooler temperatures. 

Compost can also help enrich the sandy soils that are commonly found in the Traverse City region. In this article, we will discuss how to make garden compost using food scraps from your household, specifically tailored to the climate of Northern Michigan.

(Featured Image: Composting Bin by Cara Harpole)

Why Composting Is Important For Your Garden

Composting is the process of breaking down organic matter, such as food scraps and yard waste, into nutrient-rich soil. This process not only creates a sustainable way to manage waste but also provides your garden with the necessary nutrients it needs to thrive.

Composting is especially important for gardeners in Northern Michigan as the region has shorter growing seasons and cooler temperatures. The nutrient-rich soil created from composting can help to extend the growing season and ensure a bountiful harvest.

How To Make Garden Compost Using Food Scraps

Creating your own compost using food scraps is easy and can be done right in your backyard. Here are the steps to get started:

1. Choose a Compost Bin

The first step in making garden compost using food scraps is to choose a compost bin. Compost bins come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the most important thing is to choose one that fits your needs and the amount of waste you produce. Your compost setup should also have enough space to allow you to turn or stir the compost. This helps with even breakdown of the compost materials.

For those in Northern Michigan, it is important to choose a compost bin that is sturdy enough to withstand the colder temperatures and windy conditions of the region. We use a dual chamber compost tumbler for our homemade compost. Compost tumblers allow you to fully turn your compost without even having to put on a pair of gloves, making it very easy and convenient!

A handmade compost bin made from wooden slats and metal poles at each corner.

Compost Bin by Daryl Mitchell

2. Collect Your Food Scraps

The next step is to collect your food scraps. You can collect a variety of food scraps, including fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, and bread. However, it is important to avoid meat, dairy, and oily foods as they can attract pests and slow down the composting process.

A small pile of food scraps that have been set aside to create compost.

Food Scraps by Emily Barney

3. Layer Your Compost Bin

Once you have collected your food scraps, it’s time to start layering your compost bin. Start with a layer of browns, such as dry leaves or twigs, at the bottom of the bin. This will help to provide air flow and drainage.

Next, add a layer of greens, such as food scraps and grass clippings. This layer should be approximately three times the size of the brown layer. Repeat these layers until the bin is full, making sure to keep a good balance of browns and greens.

A layer of compost containing organic material and eggshells to make homemade compost.

Eggshell Compost by S Lindsay

4. Turn Your Compost Bin

Once your compost bin is full, it’s important to turn it regularly to ensure that the composting process is happening evenly. Turning your compost bin once a week is typically sufficient. 

Some compost bins have a tumbling feature that allows you to spin the entire bin, mixing the contents inside. If you’re using a ground compost bin, you’ll want to use a tool like a pitchfork or shovel to turn the mound of compost.

A wooden compost bin alongside a metal pitchfork used to turn the compost.

Compost Turned by Shawn Campbell

5. Harvest Your Compost

After several weeks, your compost should be ready to use. The amount of time it takes for compost to be ready to use will depend greatly on the season and the temperature of the compost. The compost should be dark and crumbly, with a pleasant earthy smell.

Use your compost to amend your garden soil or as a top dressing around your plants. You can also use compost as a soil amendment when planting new plants in landscaping areas. 

Compost Temperature by Scot Nelson

Tips For Successful Composting

Here are some additional tips for successful composting using food scraps:

  1. Use a variety of food scraps to ensure a good balance of nutrients.
  2. Keep your compost bin moist but not wet. Watering your bin once a week is typically sufficient.
  3. Keep your compost bin covered to prevent pests and excess moisture.
  4. Avoid adding meat, dairy, and oily foods to your compost bin.
  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different composting methods to find what works best for your garden.

Make Compost For Your Garden Today!

Creating your own compost using food scraps is an easy and sustainable way to manage household waste while also providing nutrient-rich soil for your garden. As a gardener in Northern Michigan, composting can be especially beneficial to amend sandy or clay soil. It’s hard to go wrong with the eco-friendly practice of making your own compost!