Composting Tips

August 26, 2019 - Comment

Now is the perfect time to start! Making your own compost can be intimidating.  But really, there are just a few important pieces of information you need to know before you get started. I’ve tried composting once, but I was just guessing for the most part.  I had a so-called “partner” who claimed he knew

Now is the perfect time to start!

Making your own compost can be intimidating.  But really, there are just a few important pieces of information you need to know before you get started.

I’ve tried composting once, but I was just guessing for the most part.  I had a so-called “partner” who claimed he knew what he was doing.  When he left (was asked to leave if you know what I mean), I gave up the project.    

Composting refers to the decomposition of organic materials, including food scraps, leaves, twigs, grass clippings, and others, into a dense substance known as compost.  Start now and, by Spring, you’ll be able to add those nutrients to your garden before you till!  Hooray!  That will be a huge accomplishment! This process reduces the amount of yard waste and food scraps sent to the landfill.  And, once the organic materials are broken down, the compost you’re left with is the ideal fertilizer for your garden, packed full of nutrients and important soil organisms. 

I didn’t even realize that earthworms make a huge contribution, but they do!  Worms help to increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. They break down organic matter, like leaves and grass into things that plants can use. When they eat, they leave behind castings that are a very valuable type of fertilizer. Earthworms are like free farm help/novice gardener help!

What are worm castings?  Ha, ha, … I had to look it up to find out!  The castings are rich in water-soluble plant nutrients and contain more than 50% more humus than what is normally found in topsoil. Humus is the dark organic matter that forms in soil when dead plant and animal matter decays. Worm castings are packed with minerals such as concentrated nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and calcium – all essential for plant growth.

Organic material will break down without any help at all; it just might take a long time.  That’s why gardeners like to facilitate the composting process.  As a home gardener, it will be difficult to produce the amount of compost you hope to use in your garden, especially if you garden a large area (my garden is super small).  However, a little goes a long way and any influx of nutrients is terrific because you’re conditioning and rebuilding the soil.

You can just start a pile in your yard or buy a compost container or just use a big plastic garbage container! Be assured that your efforts will be rewarded ten-fold! Check out my website, http://www.libraryofdeals.com, to shop for the supplies you’ll need.

These are things you can compost:

  • fruits & veggies
  • eggshells
  • sawdust & wood chips
  • hay & straw
  • yard trimmings
  • cotton & wool rags
  • lint (think dryer lint)
  • coffee grounds, filters, tea bags
  • hair & fur

Do not try to add these things to your compost:

  • coal & charcoal ash
  • dairy products & eggs (use shells only)
  • fats, grease, oils
  • black walnut tree leaves & twigs
  • pet waste

Just the right combo makes for an excellent compost!

  • Greens, which are high in nitrogen.  Include grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds, and fresh-cut plant material.
  • Browns, which are high in carbon.  Include branches and twigs, dead leaves, straw, and cardboard.
  • Water – Rain should do the trick unless it’s a dry season. 
  • Air – Aim for a pile about 3 cubic feet in volume.  I couldn’t begin to know how high (or wide) that would be so I will just pile it on until it “feels” okay.  And then I’ll start another pile.  You’ll want to be able to turn the pile.

Consider layering the things you add – start with a layer of branches and twigs to allow for better drainage and air circulation.  Cover that will a layer of browns, such as dried leaves.  Then add greens like grass clippings or food scraps. 

If possible, incorporate layers of fresh compost as well to jumpstart a healthy pile of soil organisms needed to break the organic materials down. 

Basically use (approximately of course) 3 parts brown to 1-part green.  If you use too many greens the pile will be smelly and attract rodents and other pests.  If maintained (with enough turning and an ample amount of water), you will have fresh compost within a few months, well ahead of planting season!  Regarding water, you want to keep the compost moist but not soaked.  Cover it if possible, in order to control the water factor.

Turn the compost once or twice a month to aerate the pile and speed up decomposition.  Or add extra coarse materials, such as straw, which will allow for more aeration without turning.

Add finished compost to your garden a couple of weeks before you plant to all ow time for integration.

There is an advantage to starting 2 small piles.  Once you finish the first pile, you can allow it to become active and start making a new pile.

A healthy little plant!

Compost will still break down if you use a no-turn system but it just might not heat up as much and may take longer to become finished compost.  My guess is “finished” means it can easily be tilled into the soil in your “soon to be” successful garden! 

Composting Info

Locate the compost pile/s where it won’t affect the neighbors. Hopefully they will be impressed and want to learn how to start composting for themselves.

Happy Composting!

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