Compost is the perfect example of organic matter. It’s the end result of decomposing organic matter, which can be anything from garden waste and kitchen scraps to leaves, grass clippings, and even manure.
While compost isn’t exceptionally high in essential nutrients (N-P-K), it’s still considered a soil conditioner rather than a fertilizer. This is because it creates better soil and makes nutrients more accessible to plants.
There are many benefits to using compost, such as:
- Improving soil structure
- Increasing water retention in soils
- Reducing erosion
- Improving drainage
- Aid in necessary microbial activity in the soil
- Attract beneficial insects such as earthworms
- Suppress several soil-born diseases
- Hold nutrients in organic or slow-release form, allowing for availability throughout the growing season
If you’re a gardener, chances are you already know the importance of compost. Compost is a critical ingredient in healthy soil, and it can help your plants grow stronger and produce more bountiful harvests.
But what exactly is compost? Simply put, it’s organic matter that bacteria and other organisms have broken down into a form that plants can use. This process is known as decomposition, and it’s something that happens naturally in the environment.
You can speed up the decomposition process by creating a compost bin or pile in your backyard. To do this, you’ll need to add some organic material to get things started. This can be anything from kitchen scraps to leaves and grass clippings. Once you’ve got your bin or pile set up, the key is to keep it moist (but not too wet) and turn it regularly so that air can reach all of the materials inside.
The beauty of composting is that almost anything organic will break down over time – even things like eggshells and coffee grounds! And once the process is complete, you’ll be left with rich, crumbly soil that’s perfect for planting in.
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- Garden hoe or rake
- Compost bin (optional)
- Brown and green matter for compost
There’s no best way to compost. The important thing is to add compost to your soil.
There are two basic approaches to making your own compost: active and passive:
Passive composting is the “Compost Happens” school. All you need to do is pile up your organic matter and wait. It can take a few years to decompose fully, but eventually, it will. However, it may never heat up enough to kill off weed seeds and spores.
Active composting requires varying degrees of effort. Truly active composting involves being somewhat precise with the layers you add to your compost pile and turning it regularly. Here’s how:
- You need a 3x3x3 foot space for your bin or piles (this is just a minimum…you can have it as large as you want). If you’re using containers, get some with holes in the bottom so air can circulate;
- Add 6 inches of carbon-rich material such as leaves, straw, or wood chips;
- Top that with 2-4 inches of nitrogen-rich material like grass clippings or food scraps;
- Repeat steps 2 & 3 until your bin or pile is full;
- Water regularly so that the materials are moist but not soggy;
- Turn your pile every week or two with a pitchfork (this aerates the materials and speeds up decomposition).
Which Type Of Bin Or Pile Is Right For You?
If you’re planning on making your own compost, you’ll need to have a place to store it. A simple pile will do, but if you want to be a bit more organized, you can get a bin that’s at least 3 feet by 3 feet.
Once your storage is sorted out, it’s time to start adding materials. You can compost pretty much anything organic, so things like fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, and even newspapers can go in. Just make sure that you’re adding something in roughly equal amounts of “green” and “brown” materials.
Green materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds. These are high in nitrogen and will help break down the other materials in your compost pile. Brown materials are things like dead leaves, twigs, and shredded paper. These are high in carbon and will help absorb moisture and add structure to your compost pile.
Once you’ve added your green and brown materials to your bin or pile, all you need to do is wait! Composting is a slow process, but eventually, all those organic scraps will break down into rich soil perfect for gardening.
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Composting is a great way to reduce your waste and help your garden at the same time. It’s easy to start, and you can use almost any organic material.
To start, create a layer of brown material, such as hay, straw, or dry leaves. On top of this, add a layer of green cloth, such as plant debris, kitchen scraps, or grass clippings. The green material provides nitrogen, while the brown material provides carbon.
You can use any type of organic material that has not been treated with herbicides or pesticides. Common materials include coffee grounds, garden trimmings, leaves, and wood ash. Avoid bones, meat and fish scraps, pet manure., and weeds (mainly perennial weeds).
Add eggshells to the mix for some extra calcium. Composting is a great way to reduce your waste and help your garden at the same time!
The Importance Of Watering Your Compost Pile
If you’re composting, you must ensure you keep your pile correctly hydrated. Water the bank until it is damp throughout, but not soaked. This will help break down the organic matter and speed up the composting process.
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If you’re looking to create compost, layering is essential. You’ll need to repeat the layers until the compacted pile is at least 3 feet high. If it’s smaller than 3 feet, it won’t heat up enough to create compost.
Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to do:
- Start with a layer of organic material, such as leaves or grass clippings.
- Add a layer of manure or soil on top of the organic material.
- Repeat these layers until the pile is at least 3 feet high.
- Water the pile and turn it regularly to keep it moist and aerated
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If you’re composting at home, you’ll need to turn your pile every couple of weeks. This helps to keep the material evenly mixed and decomposing correctly. You can use a garden hoe or rake to turn your bank. Just be sure to wear gloves if you’re handling any fresh organic material!
How To Cover Your Pile
As your compost pile grows, you’ll need to take some steps to keep it healthy and prevent nutrients from washing away. One of the best ways to do this is to cover the pile with a tarp.
This will help keep the pile moist (but not too wet) and prevent nutrients from leaching out. Check on your bank regularly and turn it so that all sides get evenly covered with the tarp.
By taking these simple steps, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh, nutrient-rich compost for your garden all season long!
How To Sift Through Compost For The Best Results
It’s that time of year again! Time to sift out the large pieces from your compost and use them in your garden.
Compost is an excellent way to add nutrients and improve soil quality. It helps retain moisture, reduces compaction, and provides a home for beneficial microbes.
Sifting your compost is a simple process that will help you get the most out of it. All you need is a screen or sieve and something to catch the compost as it falls through. A wheelbarrow or tarp works well for this.
Once your materials are set up, simply scoop some compost onto the screen and shake or stir it around until only the small particles fall through. The larger pieces can go back into your compost pile to continue decomposing.
Now you’re ready to use your fresh, nutrient-rich compost in your garden!
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Composting is a great way to reduce your environmental impact and recycle nutrients into your garden. It’s also straightforward to do!
Ideally, you’ll have several compost piles going at once. One that is ready to use, one that is full and in the decomposing process, and finally, one that you are still adding to. This way, you always have some finished compost on hand, and you’re never without a place to put your kitchen scraps.
As with anything in nature, there are a lot of variables, so there is no perfect method of composting. Three parts green to one part brown is a good rule of thumb to follow. However, if you’re a “let it rot” kind of composter, you’ll still end up with good compost.
The important thing is just to get started! Composting is easy and rewarding, so there’s no excuse not to try it.
What To Consider When Buying Compost
You can buy compost by the bag or by the truckload. Either way, it’s good to know the source.
Bagged Compost: The problem with bagged compost is that you don’t really know what you’re getting until you bring it home and open the bag. Many times compost by the load is composted manure, which is usually fine. To be safe, look for the word “organic” on the label. That would offer some guarantee that whatever ingredients were used were not contaminated or something you would not want in your garden, like sewage, heavy metals, or pesticides.
Bulk Compost: This is definitely the cheapest way to purchase compost. Just as important, you can see what you’re getting before you get it home. Don’t be afraid to ask what they use to make their compost and if it is organic.
How To Use Compost In Your Garden
The benefits of compost are well-known to gardeners. It enriches the soil, helps retain moisture, and provides essential nutrients for plants. But when is the best time to add compost to your garden?
The short answer is: anytime! Compost can be added to your garden at any time of year, either turned into the soil or used as a mulch or top dressing for established plants. You can add it just before planting time or amend your beds in the fall and let the natural freezing and thawing process work it into the bed.
How much compost your soil needs will depend on the quality of the soil. The more you add, the better your soil will become. It’s tough to go wrong adding compost, but it’s not a one-time fix. You’ll need to amend your beds annually, which is why gardeners always say there is never enough compost!