You’ve got FREE food and compost at your fingertips! Who wouldn’t love that? Using fresh vegetables and fruits are not only healthy foods for our bodies, but also your source for free compost to feed your plants and seeds. Compost is essential for sandy and clay soils. It adds nutrients, retains moisture and loosens difficult soil. You don’t need a fancy contraption to make compost … just a big pile will do the job.

When you’re preparing a meal or snack, there is usually a vegetable or fruit involved. (If you want to have your own vegetable garden, remove the seeds from fresh foods like tomatoes and peppers, rinse them and lay them out on paper towel to dry. Write the seed type on the paper towel so you’ll know what you’re planting. Then plant them in an area that receives eight to ten hours of sun a day and place a plant marker in the seed bed.) Now, save the vegetable scraps from meal prep and dice it up. Find a sunny bare spot in your yard to create your compost pile where you place the diced scraps. Mix in with equal parts of some dried leaves, shredded newspaper or used coffee grinds. The sun helps with heating the pile to 1600 to speed the decomposition of the ingredients, and kill unwanted seeds. You won’t reach this temperature until the pile is quite large. Water until all the ingredients are moist, but not soggy. If you squeeze a handful and water runs out, that’s too much. It should feel more like a damp sponge. Cover with black plastic (a trash bag will do) and weigh down the edges. Every three or four days, remove the plastic and toss around the ingredients, checking for the proper moisture level. Just keep adding the ingredients to your pile, toss and water. The bigger the pile, the more interior heat it will produce.

REMEMBER: Save and dice your scraps. Choose a sunny bare spot in your garden. Till the scraps in with dried leaves, newspaper or coffee grinds. Check the interior for 160 F temperature with a compost thermometer. Toss it around and water it. When the ingredients are no longer recognizable, you have FREE compost. Happy gardening!

Sam Blankenship, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Posted in Composting