With the warm weather, you probably find yourself outside watering your plants and weeding your yard, but this is also an ideal time to begin a compost bin. Composting is nature’s way of nurturing the soil. It can turn your yard trimmings and fruit and vegetable trimmings into the best soil conditioner on earth?”and help your garden grow. Here are some tips on how to get started composting and some helpful things to keep in mind when you have your bin underway:

? Buy a bin.

Start by buying a cut-rate bin at the One Day Only Compost Bin Sale hosted by the Chicago Home Composting Program and sponsored in part by a Mayor Daley Neighborhood Recycling Grant. If you are a Chicago resident, you can purchase a high quality, rodent-resistant composter for $25 (a 70 percent discount) on Saturday, July 23, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until supplies are sold out at Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., and Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences at 3807 S. 111th Street. For information, call 773/265-9587.

? Secure your bin from intruders.

To keep animals out of your compost, be sure to use a rodent resistant compost bin?”one with a lid, a floor and no holes or gaps larger that inch.

? Getting your bin started.

Add an even amount of “brown” (carbon-rich) and “green” (nitrogen rich) items to your bin. Brown materials include dried leaves, straw, and wood chips. Green materials are grass clippings, garden weeds, fruits and vegetables. You can also add eggshells and coffee grounds. Do not compost meats, dairy products, grease, beans, breads or pasta, as these can attract rodents. Keep moist, but not wet. Make sure the bin materials remain damp at all time, but not overly wet, which could create an unpleasant odor.

? Mix it up.

Be sure to mix your compost on a regular basis; keeping it aerated allows the materials to breakdown.

? Using your compost as mulch.

Spread compost as a mulch on your garden soil, 1-3 inches thick. Each time you water, your plants will be mildly fertilized. Mulch also suppresses weeds and helps the soil hold precious water.

? Grasscycle.

It helps your lawn stay green and healthy, and reduces waste. For best results, set your mower at 3 inches or higher to help shade your lawn’s soil. Mow often enough that you never cut more then 1/3 of the height of the grass blades with each mowing, and let the clippings lie. Mulching mowers are useful for grasscycling but not necessary.

? Stay in touch.

For answers to your composting questions, call the Chicago Home Composting Program Rotline at 773/265-9587, operated by Master Composters, or go online at www.chicagohomecomposting.org.

For more information on the city’s recycling programs, go to the city’s website at www.cityofchicago.org or call 311.

?”Contact: Carl Grimm, Garfield Park Conservatory, 773/638-1766 x26, cgrimm