Green Garden Guides: The Secret To Healthy Gardens
What is Compost?
Compost is a natural fertilizer and soil conditioner. You can make it at home from organic materials such as kitchen scraps and garden waste. When put into a pile, these materials naturally decompose, turning into a rich, soil-like material called compost or humus.
Since healthy plants come from healthy soil, one of the best ways you can build healthy soil in your garden and lawn is by using compost.
With a small investment in time, you can improve the health and appearance of your yard, save money on fertilizers and mulch, all while preserving natural resources and protecting the health of your family and pets.
Where to Start
If you're one of the millions of Americans now stuck at home because of the coronavirus, it might feel like you're cooking more than you've ever cooked in your entire life.
Composting is a great way to use the things in your refrigerator-that are a little past their prime, therefore eliminating waste. Keeping a container in your kitchen, a white bucket is an easy way to accumulate your composting materials.
You can collect these materials to start off your compost pile right:
- Fruit scraps
- Vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Eggshells (though they can take a while to break down)
- Grass and plant clippings
- Dry leaves
- Finely chopped wood and bark chips
- Shredded newspaper
- Sawdust from untreated wood
Before you start, here's a short life of items that you'll be needing to get going:
- Compost bin or outdoor area to compost
- Aeration tools such as a pitchfork or compost aerator
- Kitchen food scrap holding pail
- Organic material such as yard waste, food scraps, and shredded paper
- A compost activator or accelerator including urea, manure, or bone meal to help the composting process start quickly and efficiently
(Compost activator Collage)
1. Choose Your Type of Compost Bin.
You can use either an open pile or a compost bin. Bins have the advantage of being neat, keeping animals out, and preserving heat. The size and type of bin you get will depend on how much compostable material you want to make.
2. Choose Your Compost Location.
You should choose a location which is flat, well-drained and sunny. Most importantly, it should be easy to access.
3. Alternate Layers.
Start with a layer of course materials (like twigs) to allow for drainage and aeration. Cover this layer with leaves. Then simply alternate between layers of greens materials (nitrogen-rich material) and browns (carbon-rich material).
4. Add Kitchen and Yard Waste as They Accumulate.
Collect your kitchen compostables in a container in your kitchen. Find a handy place to store this container – on the counter, under the sink, or in the freezer. When it is full, empty its contents into the compost bin.
NOTE: Whenever you add food scraps or yard waste, be sure to top it with a layer of browns. If you do not add browns, your compost will be wet and break down more slowly.
5. Continue to Add Layers Until Your Bin is Full.
The bin contents/pile will shrink as it begins to decompose.
6. Maintain Your Compost Bin.
To get finished compost more quickly, check your compost bin and make sure the following conditions are met:
- When you add fresh material, be sure to mix it in with the lower layers.
- Materials should be as wet as a rung-out sponge. Add dry materials or water – whichever is needed – to reach this moisture level.
- Mix or turn the compost once a week to help the breakdown process and eliminate odor.
7. Harvest Your Compost.
Finished compost will be dark, crumbly, and smell like earth. You should be able to have finished compost within four to six months of starting your bin.
In the end "the nose knows" when your compost is ready. Bad compost smells, well, bad. It's like what a smelly trash can or dumpster smells like. Basically, it smells like a landfill.
If it smells bad, it probably means it's not decomposing — maybe your pile might be too wet or you might need to readjust your ratios of greens and browns.
The finished compost will end up at the top of the bin or compost pile.
Compost Helps the Most
Compost is a versatile product with many benefits. It enhances soil quality, helps save water, and supports your community’s efforts to recycle organic debris. All this helps to conserve our natural resources and reduces the amount of material sent to the landfill.
Overall, compost is good for plants, good for the environment, and even good for you and your wallet.
Composting may sound complex, but the benefits are unbelievable. The effort needed in composting is worth it and every home gardener should give it a shot.
There's no need to be intimidated since there are many composting methods out there, find the one that's perfect for you and believe us, you won't regret that you did.