Leftover salad and the pear you forgot about inthe back of the fridge don’t belong in a landfill. Instead, toss organic waste into a backyard compost pile to transform that refuse into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your lawn and garden. Inside the mound, a community of worms, bacteria, and other microorganisms breaks down the natural junk. Here’s what you’ll need to get started making your own brown gold.
1. Sort it out
Start in the kitchen by separating the organic stuff. The Full Circle Breeze Bin holds more than a half-gallon of waste, and biodegradable liner bags facilitate transfer to a bigger heap. Vents encourage airflow to reduce fruit-fly-luring smells.
2. Bring it outside
Eventually, put the crud from your kitchen bin into one chamber of the Hotfrog Tumbling Composter. That will be your active pile, where the decomposition happens; the other side stores finished mulch. Spin the drums to give the debris the oxygen it needs.
3. Stir it up
Though handy for mixing free-standing piles, the Bosmere P845 Compost Aerator can also help you agitate just the soil’s surface in a large tumbler. Hinged wings at the end of the tool naturally fold as you push them into the pile, and unfold with each mulch-stirring pull.
4. Check the temp
Peak decomposition occurs between 104 and 140 degrees. Spike above 165 degrees, and you risk offing the bugs. The Reotemp Backyard Compost Thermometer shows the zones so you know when to mix the pile to cool down the bacteria with some fresh air.
Live in a city? No outdoor space?
If you don’t have anywhere outside to store your compost, consider housing your scraps in the freezer. They’ll stay stink-free and won’t attract unwanted house guests like flies or roaches. This silicone container fits inside your freezer door. When it’s full, dump the contents into a compostable bag and take it to one of your city’s drop-off points.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 Life/Death issue of Popular Science.