Almost everyone knows that compost is great for the garden. But what exactly is compost, and how do you make it? Compost is simply decomposed organic matter, such as leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. When these materials break down, they create a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used to improve your garden’s health and productivity.
Making compost at home is easy and doesn’t require any special equipment. All you need is a little space in your yard, some basic ingredients, and a bit of patience. The end result will be worth the effort, as you’ll have a free and sustainable source of fertilizer for your garden.
The Benefits of Composting.
Composting is a great way to improve the quality of your soil. By adding compost to your soil, you will add important nutrients that will help your plants grow. Compost also helps to improve drainage and aeration in the soil, which can help to prevent plant diseases.
Reduces Landfill Waste.
One of the main benefits of composting is that it reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills. When you compost your kitchen and yard waste, you are keeping this waste out of landfills where it would take up valuable space and create methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is harmful to the environment.
Another benefit of composting is that it can save you water. Compost helps to hold moisture in the soil, which means you won’t have to water your plants as often. This can save you money on your water bill and help to conserve water during times of drought.
The Basics of Composting.
The first step to starting a compost pile is understanding what can and cannot be composted. Most organic matter can be composted, including fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, and yard waste. However, there are a few things that should not be composted, such as meat or dairy products, bones, diseased plants, or invasive weeds.
The Three Types of Composting.
There are three main methods of composting: hot composting, cold composting, and vermicomposting.
Hot composting is the quickest method of composting, taking anywhere from two weeks to two months. A hot compost pile needs to reach a temperature of at least 55 degrees Celsius in order to break down properly. To create a hot compost pile, mix together green (nitrogen-rich) materials like grass clippings and food scraps with brown (carbon-rich) materials like dead leaves and twigs. The key to hot composting is maintaining the correct ratio of greens to browns as well as ensuring that the pile is kept moist but not too wet.
Cold composting is a slower process that takes several months to a year. It doesn’t require any special ingredients or ratios, making it the easiest method for beginners. Cold compost piles don’t heat up like hot piles do, so they won’t break down as quickly. However, they are less likely to attract pests and rodents since they don’t produce any odors that would attract them.
Vermicomposting is another slow process that takes several months but has the added benefit of producing worm castings ( fertilizer). To vermicompost, you’ll need to set up a bin with bedding material like shredded newspaper or straw for the worms to live in. Add food scraps and other organic matter to the bin for the worms to eat. The worms will then turn the organic matter into nutrient-rich castings that can be used as fertilizer .
2 .3 Building Your Own Composter
If you want to start your own composter at home , there are a few different options depending on your budget and space restrictions . If you have a large backyard , you could build a simple wooden bin or buy a plastic one . If you have limited space , there are small kitchen countertop units or even worm bins that can sit underneath your sink . No matter what type of composter you choose , make sure it has proper ventilation holes so air can circulate and prevent odors from building up .
Maintaining Your Compost Pile.
To create the best compost, you need a mix of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and include things like fruit and vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, and coffee grounds. Brown materials are high in carbon and include dead leaves, twigs, and shredded newspaper. A good ratio to aim for is two parts brown material to one part green material.
Aerating Your Compost Pile.
Aeration is important for two reasons: it helps oxygen reach the microbes that are breaking down your compost, and it prevents your pile from getting too hot (which can kill these beneficial microbes). There are a few different ways to aerate your compost pile:
-Turn it with a pitchfork every few days
-Build a bin with slats or holes in the sides or bottom so air can circulate
-Place an overturned wire mesh basket in the center of your pile
Watering Your Compost Pile.
Another key ingredient for healthy compost is water. The contents of your pile should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge – not too wet and not too dry. If it’s too dry, add some water; if it’s too wet, add some dry brown material like straw or leaves.
Using Your Compost.
Compost is ready to use when it is dark and crumbly and smells like earth. This usually takes 4-6 weeks. To test if your compost is ready, grab a handful and squeeze it. If it forms a clump, it needs more time.
How to Use Compost in the Garden.
There are many ways to use compost in the garden. You can use it as mulch, top dressing, or soil amendment.
Mulch: Spread a layer of compost around your plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Top dressing: Apply a thin layer of compost to the surface of your soil to help fertilize your plants.
Soil amendment: Mix compost into your garden soil to improve drainage and aeration.
Composting is a great way to reduce waste, improve soil quality, and save water. It’s easy to get started, and there are many ways to use compost once it’s ready. With a little effort, you can make a big impact on your garden and the environment.