Do you want to learn how to compost? You might be thinking, “composting is for the big garden or a homestead, but not for me”.
But you would be wrong!
Composting Is For Everyone!
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Composting. Turning Kitchen Scraps Into Garden Gold.
Are you dreaming of a garden brimming with fruits and vegetables?
If you want those fruits and vegetables to be the healthiest they can be you need to compost.
Whether you have a 10-acre farm or an apartment with herbs in containers on the window sill, you can compost in one form or another.
First let me say that composting is easy and it’s something that everyone can and should do, whether you have a garden or not. But what is composting?
What we are talking about is returning vegetative refuse back into nutrients for your plants.
Now, what did I just say?
OK, In other words, I just ate a pear. Now I could just throw the core into the trash can. But, that would just serve to fill up the landfill. And my plants would get no benefit from it at all.
But, if I choose to compost that pear core, I can put those nutrients back into my soil, feeding my plants and making them very happy.
But how do I do that? Oh, let me count the ways! There are so many ways to compost. I’ll tell you about several of them, but I’m sure I won’t hit them all.
What Is Composting?
Composting is the act of turning your garbage into gold. Well, your garden will think it’s gold anyway.
Composting is simply taking organic material and letting bacteria, fungi, and other organisms break it down into nutrients plants can use. Composting is nature’s way of recycling.
Composting is the completion of a life cycle. When we compost we are returning the waste organic material back to the soil so it can be used again to make new plants.
Related Reading: Build Million Dollar Garden Soil
Why Should You Compost?
Compost improves your soil structure. Roots need both air and water. By adding organic matter (compost) to your garden soil it enables your soil to allow air to move freely through it and for water to stay in it longer, but not too long.
Compost also increases the nutrient content of your soil making it available for your plants. Both by adding a small amount of nutrients itself and by hanging onto other nutrients that are added, until the plants are ready to use them.
Good healthy soil will use less water.
How Do You Use Compost?
You can work it into the top two inches of your garden bed. Compost actually feeds the macro and microorganisms in your soil that in turn feeds your plants and makes up healthy soil.
Compost releases nutrients slowly so your plants can receive nutrients over a longer period of time.
Related Reading: 12 Easy Vegetables For The Beginning Gardener
What Can You Compost?
You can compost all organic matter. That is anything that was once alive.
However, some things are easier and friendlier (especially for your neighbors), and safer to compost.
I’m talking here about the most common type of composting. Vegetative mater. Think vegetables, grass clippings, leaves, or weeds. Things that grow out of the ground.
These items are the safest and quickest (and least stinky) things to compost. In fact, if your compost pile is kept moist, but not soggy, it will only smell like dirt. It will not stink.
So bring on those banana peels, the leftover green beans, the weeds you pulled out of your garden. Grass clippings? Check. Fallen leaves? Check.
How about tree branches? Sure, but they take a lot longer to compost, so I prefer not to mix them. I compost branches in a separate pile.
You can also compost junk mail shredded (non-glossy), newspapers and cardboard.
How do you get started composting?
First, you need to decide what kind of container to use.
1) An apartment composter.
2) A bin in the garden.
3) A wire bin.
4) You can build a wooden bin or set of boxes.
5) Purchase one of many “store bought” composters.
a) stationary or
7) Worm towers in the garden
8) You can bury your food waste in the garden. This is referred to as trench composting.
9) There is also the Bokashi Composting Method.
10) You can even just pile it on the ground. (this works best for those sticks and branches we mentioned earlier.)
Oh my, so many, many different ways.
Related Reading: Vermiculture – Raising Worms
Next, you should start by adding some dirt or some Compost Starter. The dirt off weeds or just a shovel full of garden soil is good. This will introduce some of the bacteria and fungi that helps to eat the waste to turn it into black gold. (Yeah, that’s what gardeners call compost.)
Then start adding organic material. Keep it moist, not wet. From here it depends on the container you are using and how quickly you wish your compost to work. If you just leave leaves and weeds in a bin, there will be useable compost in about 1 to 1 1/2 years. If, however, you do a few things to your compost it will work much faster.
Related Reading: Throw A Compost Tea Party For Your Plants
What Makes Compost Work Faster?
1) Make sure you add both green and brown organic matter to your compost. Fresh cut grass or newly pulled weeds are green. Fall leaves or spent hay are brown.
They work together as carbon and nitrogen to feed the organisms that decompose the organic matter.
2) Turn (mix) your compost regularly. This incorporates oxygen into your compost so your fungi and bacteria can breathe. (keeps your pile smelling better too). How often? The more the better. Once a week is good. More often is even better. (This is where a tumbler makes the job easy.)
3) The smaller the pieces the quicker the finished product.
4) Make sure it is damp, like a wrung-out sponge, and keep it that way. Add more water as needed.
How Can You Tell If Your Compost Is Working?
After a few days, the compost will start to feel warm in the middle that indicates the microbes are working. You can check it with a compost thermometer for accurate temperatures. You can also just use your hand if all you want to know is that it’s working.
After a while, you will start to see it becoming dark brown and crumbly like the crumbs of chocolate cake left on the plate….what there are no leftover crumbs on your plate of chocolate cake?…Mine neither. But you get the idea.
At some point you will want to start a new compost pile so the first one can “finish” and you can take the compost out and use it to feed your plants. When you do, take some of the finished or almost finished compost to start the new pile. It will incorporate the microbes into the new pile and give it a head start.
After years of gardening, I finally got this ComposTumbler. It was a little pricey. But I asked for it and got it as a gift. And I love it!
I can finish one batch while I start another one. And stirring it is a breeze you just turn the handle. Who would think you could get so excited about a composter?
( They don’t make the one I got anymore, but this is a new and improved double-barreled compost tumbler. And at a better price too!)
Related Reading: 19 Tips For Beginning Gardeners
Vermicomposting is just composting with worms. I must confess, this is one of my favorite gardening ‘chores’. I love to feed my worms. They take my kitchen waste, coffee grounds, and even some grass clippings and turn it into the best plant food you can ever imagine. And they do it in record time too. I like vermicomposting so much I wrote a whole post on just those cute little hungry wigglers.
OK, but what about all the other stuff that can be composted, but isn’t mentioned here?
What shouldn’t be composted and why? Check out advanced composting to find out.
Are You Still Here?
If you’re still here then congratulations! You must be a serious gardener. Now go out and start that compost pile!
“I believe everyone can grow at least part of their own food.” Let Me Show You How!