Check out our Off-season Services to see how we can serve you year-round!

Compost Basics Part 1: Introduction

Most of you gardeners out there think compost is a beautiful thing, but most other folks might ask “why compost? It’s smelly, dirty, and it’s a huge hassle.” I wouldn’t disagree with that, however, I believe compost to be a hugely important practice, not only for gardeners but for society as a whole. As introduction to the topic, here are just a couple of reasons that EVERYBODY should take interest in composting.

ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY:

Not only does composting in your backyard or taking your organic waste to a certified composter decrease the overall volume of trash going into landfills, it decreases the greenhouse gases that are coming out of landfills. When food scraps and yard waste are treated as compost and are properly tended to as they break down, they decompose aerobically (with oxygen) through the process of turning the compost time after time, or introducing worms to aerate the compost. If organic material is thrown into a landfill and is not tended to as compost, it breaks down anaerobically (without oxygen) because it’s not getting turned and maintained. Anaerobic decomposition produces methane gases, which are harmful to the ozone layer.

DECREASE SMELLY TRASH:

When I started composting my food scraps, I was immediately impressed with the improvement of my trash situation. I filled up my trash can way less often, and it didn’t start to stink after only a few days. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I suggest giving it a try. You’ll discover the magic of an unobtrusive trash can.

Those are only two reasons of many that compost can appeal to a larger crowd than gardeners, and there are countless reasons compost is important to people using it in their gardens or on their farms.

Want to give composting a try? Here are the bare bones basics to starting your own compost pile.

THINGS TO PUT IN:

If you are composting on a small scale in your backyard, there are some categories of organic waste that you should try to keep OUT of your compost: meat, dairy, highly salty and/or oily foods, carcasses, and most excrements (there are some animal manures you can use, like chicken, rabbit, sheep, and other small livestock. But stay away from dog, human, even cow if you’re just starting out). These things break down slowly, attract animals, and can carry harmful pathogens. Pretty much everything else that was once a living thing is free game: vegetables, fruits, breads, coffee grounds, egg shells, any yard waste, wood chips, etc.

IDEAL LOCATION:

As long as your neighborhood covenants and your neighbors don’t mind if you compost, you can really do it just about anywhere. A couple things to think about though, you’ll want to keep it contained/enclosed somehow, especially if you have a dog who wants to get herself sick eating composted carrots (my dog). You’ll also want a good sunny spot for it if possible to aid in heating up the pile. Not required though, it will still warm itself up without the sun.

MAINTAINING IT:

This one will be different for every person due to different climates and different raw materials going into the compost. However, I’ll tell you what I do and some general guidelines that should apply to everyone. The three big things to keep in mind are heat, water, and oxygen. Your compost pile needs all three to do it’s work. You’ll need to flip your compost pile every once in a while (this introduces oxygen to the compost), and if you’re in a dry climate, give it some water while you are doing it. Don’t flip it all the time though because a compost pile needs to sit and get warm as the microbes work hard to break down the material. In the past, my formula for maintaining a pile was to flip it and sprinkle it with water as I flipped it once every month. As I am getting more scientific about it, I don’t follow that as strictly and I am paying attention to more factors, but I produced some really good compost from using that formula, so that might be a good place to start. There is so much more I can say about proper maintenance, but for this article I will leave it at that. Read Part 2 if you want some more specifics about how to improve your compost pile.

Like gardening, compost can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. There’s a lot of science to it, but it’s also just as simple as dirt… throw some plant matter in a pile and let it decompose. If this inspires you to give it a try, awesome. Just go for it! If you want to do it just for environmental responsibility or to decrease your smelly trash but don’t want to get your hands dirty or sacrifice some of your yard space to do it, research your area and find out if there is a compost pick-up service. A lot of new businesses are doing this, offering to pick up your food scraps and yard waste for a small monthly fee and turn it into rich community made compost. My company Brown’s Greens offers this service in Colorado Springs, CO. Support local business, there’s another reason to do it!

Posted in DIY
Brown’s Greens offers an immediately useful and accessible way to begin composting. Their curbside composting service is excellent and is really helpful in creating steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Coupled with a recycling service, we’ve been able to reduce our regular trash pick up from weekly down to once a month. Nice to see the Colorado Springs community stepping up to do good and lead out as an example for others in the state. - P. WHITNEY
We love the compost service! And of course, the garden they made for my veggies - truly beautiful and functional! - DOROTHY NELSON
Brown's Greens built four raised beds for my vegetable garden -- about six by three feet each -- and filled each one with their best planting mix. As a result, my crop yield has been increased at least four times over. Zach's knowledge of soil content and composition has been especially helpful to me, since the ground in my backyard consists mainly of hard clay. I couldn't be happier with the results! - JIM WARE
Very pleased with Brown's Greens services. My husband and I started to realize how much food waste we were producing from our juicing regimen and wanted to find a better option than the trash. Brown's Greens was simple to set up, very reasonably priced, and they've been right on time each week to pick up. - NICOLE BIRD
1. I always thought about composting but really didn’t know how to get started. I used Browns Greens for some landscaping (which they did beautifully and on budget!) and noticed their compost service on their website. I’ve been enrolled in their weekly bucket pickup/drop off service for a month now, and I love it. They are prompt, the fresh buckets are nice & clean, and it feels amazing to make good use of my food and garden scraps instead of clogging up the trash. I’m excited to receive my compost when the time comes.

2. *UPDATE* Just had to add to this review since we had Browns Greens return for more landscaping. I asked Zach for ideas to replace all the grass in the front yard, and he drew up a beautiful plan. His crew did all of the work in two and a half days, and it’s stunning. We have a dry riverbed with beautiful stones, and boulder-studded berms on either side planted with native shrubs and perennials, all set up with drip irrigation to help them flourish. (The attached photo doesn’t really do it justice — the plants are still babies, and the berms are higher than the pic makes them appear.) The crew is friendly, hard working, and they all clearly love their jobs. I cannot say enough wonderful things about everything this company does. - MANDY HOUK
Brown's Greens is a great local company! Zach Brown and his team planned and created a wonderful landscape for our backyard, including beautiful borders, mulched areas, and raised beds which have given our family veggies for 3 years. The work was done right, quickly, and the price competitive. We highly recommend Browns Greens! - TERRI MOON
Great customer service. Always friendly. Dedicated to making the world a better place. - NICOLE LANE
Easiest, affordable, professional company that makes home composting so accessible!! Highly recommend them for your home composting needs! - CAROLINE MARGARET
I love Brown's Greens! I have wanted to do composting for a while but just don't have the time to do it on my own, and it is so inconvenient to take it somewhere else. But now it is picked up at my house once a week! They are always consistent in sending weekly reminders and picking it up. And I receive compost back to put in my garden, and my garden is loving it. So glad I can participate in cutting down on landfill space, improving air quality, AND in blessing the ground and the city in this way. Thank you, Brown's Greens! - ALISON WARE
We were thrilled with the outstanding service and quality of work that we had done by Brown's Greens. The prices were reasonable and the work was done right on schedule. We can heartily recommend Brown's Greens for any outdoor landscape or garden project! - CAROL FORSETH