Composting is a great way to recycle leftover organic material from your kitchen. Fruit and vegetable scraps, paper napkins and towels, coffee grounds and egg shells are the main ingredients added to a compost pile. One book I recently read even suggested using cigarette butts! I've been adding my husbands cigarette butts to the family compost pile and they seem to be decomposing quite nicely for the moment. Until he decides to use the patch and ditch cigarettes all together!
Anyway, compost not only enables you to make good use of kitchen scraps it also helps amend the soil in your garden by adding much needed nutrients and improving it's texture. There are several different types of soil found in the Albuquerque Metro Area, sand, clay, and gravel mixed with sand or clay. Most of the soil found in our backyards is sandy and contains a high PH balance. The books I've read suggest that you test your soil to determine what the PH level is. You can either purchase a PH kit at a gardening supply store or mail samples of your soil to the County Extension Services. I believe the tests run around $15 per soil sample.
Once you have determined what type of soil you have in your backyard then you can figure out what nutrients you need to add in order to amend your soil. This also depends on what you are planning to grow in your garden. Different fruits and vegetables derive varying levels of nutrients from the soil. For example pumpkins and corn require a lot of nitrogen in order to thrive. This can be added to your solid by adding grass clippings, coffee grounds, paper, and leaves to your compost bin.
Starting a compost bin is relatively easy. You can start by purchasing a black plastic garbage pail and gradually fill it up with compost materials. Make sure that you punch a few holes at the bottom of the trash can to let your compost aerate. Remember to "turn" your compost pile every two days with a shovel or pitch fork so that the materials decompose evenly. It is also recommended that you build a bin out of wood pallets, hay bales, concrete blocks or any other materials that will contain the compost. Your bin should be square shaped. Each panel should be approximately three to four feet high, wide, and deep. Experienced composters recommend building several bins. One should be devoted to mature or ready to use compost, while the others should be devoted to maturing compost.
Compost can also be purchased from local gardening supply stores. However, it's much more fun and economical to make your own!