Compost is just decomposed organic materials. While composting may seem complicated, it’s actually really simple and easy to do. Composting involves a combination of digested and undigested food that is left on the forest (or your garden) floor. The end product is a rich, soft soil. It’s amazing how a natural process can transform everyday waste into a gardener’s fortune. Not only is composting good for the garden, it’s our environmental responsibility to breakdown organic waste rather than ditching it in landfills.
A Gardener’s Gold
Compost is a priceless asset for our gardens. It improves the quality of the soil by changing its structure. By making the soil the right consistency, it maximizes its ability to hold the right amount of moisture and air. This in turn supports the growth of healthier and more productive plants. Compost also has the ability to transform nutrient deficient clay soil into rich, moisture holding, loamy soil. Compost provides all of the essential nutrients for healthy plant growth, and it almost always slowly releases those nutrients to the plants so that there is a consistent intake of essential nutrients.
The most obvious environmental benefit that comes from composting is the significant reduction of the amount of solid waste that would otherwise find its way into landfills. The more we compost, the less we contribute to the volume of solid materials in our landfills. Also, by using compost to feed your lawn, you can ditch those awful chemical fertilizers! Not only will you be saving money, but your lawn and garden will thrive from natural nutrients.
What’s the best way to compost?
Well, it depends on your lifestyle! There are so many different methods of composting, some requiring a lot of space while some methods require minimal space. All you have to do is identify how much space you have and then determine how much of that space you want to dedicate to composting. If you have a huge plot of land, pick any spot that’s close to your garden. But don’t be discouraged if you only have a little bit of room. Even city dwellers can effectively maintain a small compost pile.
There are two basic kinds of compost piles: open bins and enclosed containers.
-Open bins can be constructed with wood, chicken wire, or recycled plastic. You can buy these or even make one yourself! Thetrick is to be sure that there are no complete walls, because you will have to rotate the compost so that it can breathe and break down.
o + Easily collect rain water
o + Convenient when adding materials
o – Can attract rodents
o – Can be an eyesore
-Enclosed containers usually come in two designs: either an upright box container or rotating drum.
o + Rarely attract pests
o + Easier to mix and turn
o – May require you to add water
o – upright containers may be hard to turn
What do you need to know/get?
Compost is the result of providing the right mixture of key ingredients for the microorganisms that do all the munching. These microorganisms will eat, multiply, and convert raw materials to compost as long as the environment is right. All you need is food, water and air!
Water and air come naturally, but the food element can be a bit more complex… just a tiny bit! The food we put into our compost consists of two categories: “Greens” and “Browns”. Green materials are moist and high in nitrogen, while brown materials are dry and high in carbon.
- Fresh (green) Grass clippings
- Kitchen scraps (fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags)
- Green leaves
- Brown, dry leaves
- Dried grass
The best balance of compost materials is roughly four parts “browns” to one-part “greens”. If you have more browns in the mix, it will probably produce the same result, but will take more time. If you have more greens on the other hand, things can get really smelly, really fast!
A portion of this article was contributed by Nicky Cuevas.