Are you a hobby gardener with a small space wishing you had some nutritious compost to add to your garden beds or containers? Or maybe you recognize the advantages of composting, but who wants to go outside and turn a pile of rotting greens and browns? Black Bag Composting might be the perfect option for you!
Compost is a crucial component to growing fruits and vegetables on our homestead. All of our gardens including the orchard benefit from compost. I enjoy making compost because I feel its my way of quickly giving back to the soil after its worked so hard to produce food for my family.
Our gardens work hard, compost continues to feed the plants and add nutrients to the soil web.
Today I want to share with you a fun and easy way to create your own bag of compost at home without having to spend money at the garden centres. This is the method I like doing to stock pile on compost for feeding my beds between growing seasons using both the lasagne garden method and the back to eden garden methods
What is Black Bag Composting?
Composting, in general, is using your yard waste and kitchen scraps and turning it into rich and nutritious organic matter for your garden.
Black bag composting makes this process easy. It’s also perfect if you have a smaller garden area or if you don’t have a space for a large compost pile.
You will use black garbage bags and the natural anaerobic process of composting to create this gardeners’ black gold on your own.
What You Need to Compost in a Black Bag
For this process you need;
- Black garbage bags
- Brown materials
- Green materials
- A bit of compost
Brown materials refers to dried plant matter. This could be dried leaves, sawdust, straw, pine needles etc.
Green materials are wet. This will include fresh plants, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, etc.
Typically you want a mix of 50/50 between the green and brown items for your compost.
You will also want some water to wet everything down.
If you have a little bit of existing compost or soil to add to the bag, it will help get the process started quicker.
Steps to Trash Bag Composting
The first step to this method of composting is to decide if you want aerobic (using oxygen) or anaerobic (no oxygen).
If you are using the aerobic black bag method you will poke a few holes in the side of your bag. You will also need to turn these bags to keep the oxygen mixed together with the carbon and nitrogen.
Aerobic composting is generally faster, but you will have to turn the bag.
Anaerobic composting means you take oxygen out of the equation. You will seal your black bags up tight and make sure no air gets in.
The following steps are for the anaerobic version.
The first step is to gather all your materials, including 2 thick black garbage bags. Place one bag inside the other just as a backup in case the inside bag gets a tear during the composting process.
Put a layer of existing compost in the bag.
Then, begin adding layers of green materials and brown materials.
You can add additional layers of compost in between each layer of brown/green as well – just to get those microbes off to a good start.
You will finish the layering process with either brown materials or soil/compost on the top. Add in a quart or two of water. You don’t need a lot – just enough to moisten everything. .
Seal the inside bag so it is airtight. You do not want any oxygen getting in. Then, close the second (outside) bag as well.
Finally, put your black bag composter in a sunny spot and let the microbes get to work!
You can open the bag in 8-12 weeks to check the progress.
If it isn’t finished yet, seal it all back up and leave it be.
Anaerobic black bag composting may take 6 months to a year.
When is Compost Ready?
You will know your compost is ready when everything has decomposed. You should not be able to see anything that is recognizable – including kitchen scraps or yard waste. It should also have a fresh, earthy smell. It should not smell like something is rotting in your backyard.
The new compost should be crumbly in your hands.
Advantages of Composting With This Method
Using black bags for your DIY compost pile has a few distinct advantages.
- It doesn’t require a lot of space
- Very low startup cost
- Low maintenance (no turning!)
Disadvantages of Composting in Black Garbage Bags
On the other hand, there are some cons as well.
Anaerobic composting takes longer and using plastic bags means this is not 100% eco friendly.
Where to Get all the Green Materials
Green materials are considered “wet”. They are high in nitrogen and include things like fruit and vegetable scraps, trimmed flowers or leaves, grass clippings and animal manure (not from pets or humans).
You want to keep a certain ratio between your green/brown materials.
This means you might need to store green materials in an airtight bucket or other container while you are waiting to make a bag of composting. The bin below is a great option for storing green materials indoors.
Your neighbors will not mind passing on their grass clippings – just make sure they are not treated with pesticides.
Where to Get the Brown Materials
The brown or “dry” materials provide the carbon for this anaerobic composting process. Brown materials can include things like tree bark, dried corn stalks, autumn leaves, peanut shells, newspaper, cardboard (avoid anything with gloss or color inks).
Fall can be a great time to start your composting bags because you can use the leaves from your yard.
What Not to Put in Your Composting Black Bags
Just like a regular compost pile, there are some items you definitely do not want in your black bags.
- Dairy Products
- Fats and oils
- Treated Woods
- Dead animals
- Poisonous Plants
Composting with Only Fall Leaves
If you haven’t been able to save enough green materials for that perfect 50/50 ratio, it is possible to compost your fall leaves in a trash bag on their own. Shred your leaves first by going over them with a bag mower.
Then you follow the same process with the 2 thick garbage bags. Add in 2 shovels of manure or ½ cup of high nitrogen fertilizer.
Add in your shredded leaves and then top it off with a shovelful of soil and a quart or two of water. Seal tightly.
Using only leaves will be a slower process but it will still work due to the nitrogen fertilizer/manure and the microbes from the soil.
SEE HOW EASY IT IS TO COMPOST USING THE BLACK GARBAGE BAG METHOD?
Composting by any method is beneficial to the environment. It is a great way to reduce waste going to the landfill.
Composting puts nutrients back into your soil, which will reduce the need for pesticides or other drastic weed reduction methods.
It also keeps the soil ecosystem healthy which is so essential for our garden microbes and creatures.
If you have a small space or are just unsure about the process, give black bag composting a try.
Soon, you will have rich, fertile compost to keep your plants happy.