How to Compost and Keep Your Garden Well Nourished
By Steven De Nazareth
Updated: May 22nd, 2019
Most homes buy fertilizer to grow plants but chemical in fertilizers could do more harm than help plants as it could burn leaves. Instead of spending a lot of money on fertilizers, why not choose a natural plant fertilizer. There are ways to buy this at a store or on the internet but you should give it a shot to make your own fertilizer. These natural options are easy to grow in your own backyard. The best part is that composting gives the soil the most important supplement.
With compost, you are adding nutrient-rich humus that adds to plant growth and adds vitality to depleted soil and its free! It is easy to make and great for the environment. Once your compost is ready it is a free soil amendment and mild, unlike chemical fertilizers. Compost will improve the overall texture of your soil and allow it to retain and drain water faster.
Benefits of Compost
There are several benefits of compost that you should know about. Apart from doing a whole lot of good to the environment, it will help breathe new life into your soil with nutrients that are good for it. You should know that compost is free and helps your plants grow and remain healthy.
Soil Conditioner: Compost helps create rich humus for gardens and lawns. This gives you the right amount of nutrients for your plants and allows you to retain moisture for the soil.
Put waste to good use: When you compost you recycle kitchen and yard waste and reduce nearly 30% of household waste from ending up in the garbage bin.
Add beneficial organisms to soil: There are many microscopic organisms that are within compost and help aerate the soil and break down organic material. This is great for plant use and to ward off most plant diseases.
Environmental friendly: When you switch to compost, you get a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Decrease waste sent to landfills: There are many landfills in the United States that are filling up quickly and some have already closed down. You should know that one-third of all landfill waste is composed of compostable materials.
How to Compost
These 7 steps are sure to help you understand that composting is a simple process that can be done by anyone with a little time and a green thumb.
- Put compost on bare earth and let worms and other beneficial organisms to help aerate the compost and be transported to garden beds.
- Then you should put down some straw and twigs a few inches deep. By doing so, this will help aerate the pile and add some drainage.
- As the days go by, you should add compost materials in layers by alternating it with wet and dry. So just to differentiate it, wet ingredients include tea bags, seaweed, and food scraps and dry ingredients include leaves, wood ashes, straw, etc. Make sure wood ashes are sprinkled otherwise they will clump up and then it will break down slowly.
- Add green manure or any nitrogen source. This includes clover, wheatgrass, buckwheat and grass clippings. In time this will activate the compost pile and speed up the process.
- Water the compost pit occasionally or let the rain keep it moist. This also speeds up the process.
- Remember to cover the compost pit with anything from carpet scraps, plastic sheets or wood. By covering it, you will retain moisture and heat which is needed for composting. In the process, this also helps compost from being over-watered by the rain. Ensure that compost is moist and not sodden and soaked.
- Turn the entire heap of compost with a pitchfork or shovel. By doing this you are enabling it to be aerated. Oxygen is important for this process to work and by turning it you are adding oxygen. This process can be skipped if you have a lot of rough material like straw.
When you have a sizable compost pile, you should add new materials and mix them instead of adding them in layers. Continue to mix and turn the heap as this will help to aerate the compost materials and speed up the process till it is complete.
Tips on Composting Successfully
Activate your compost: You should add activators to your compost to speed up the process. The best way to do this is by adding grass cuttings, comfrey leaves, young weeds and well-rotted chicken manure.
Stop flying insects around compost: At times you will notice that small fruit flies are attracted to your compost pile. You can discourage this by covering fruit and vegetables. Simply sprinkle some grass cutting next to the compost bin. Next time you add new kitchen waste, you should cover it in two inches of clippings. You should also know that you can add lime or calcium to discourage flies.
Dispel unpleasant odors: Usually, this is a concern for urban and suburban areas. This is due to small lots and neighbors living in close proximity. You can reduce odors by following two practices which are to not put bones and meat scraps in compost. Secondly, you should ensure that you do not cover new additions to the compost pile with dry grass clippings and mulch. By adding lime and calcium you can neutralize the problem. If you find that the compost smells then you should add ammonia, carbon-rich substances like peat moss, leaves, and straw.
Compost pile steaming problem: Do not worry about your compost pile steaming. It just means that you have a large community of microscopic organisms working on your compost.
Soggy compost pile: Usually this problem happens during winter when the carbon-based materials are in short supply. Once you restore the nitrogen-carbon balance then the compost pile would be less soggy and slimy.
Grass cuttings and matted leaves clump: Most materials thrown into a composter are wet materials that stick together and slow the aeration process. Either you should put these materials aside and then add them gradually with other ingredients or break them apart with a pitchfork. You should know that grass cuttings and leaves must be mixed with composting materials for the best results.
Raccoon problems: If there is are raccoons in your area then they would probably be attracted to your compost. The best thing to do is to bar entry to the compost area. Adding traps and poisons could cause more trouble than solve the problem. By using a wood or metal lid, it can be easily hinged to the bin or you can buy a commercially built compost bin with securely fitted lids that are pest proof.
Moveable feast: Soil under the compost bin will become rich in nutrients that have filtered down with successive watering. When you place the bin on the ground then you can plan for a future vegetable patch, fruit tree or flower patch. Every year you should move the bin to a different area to double the benefit. By this we mean, the compost from the bin and the area of rich nutrient soil that is ready for planting.
Used as Soil Additive: Compost must be used as a soil additive and not as a growing medium. This is because compost is rich in organic matter which is good for growing plants and should be a major component of a healthy garden bed.
Nourish Healthy Garden Soil This Fall
Utilize Autumn’s Bounty: You should know that small-scale backyard composting should be rich in carbon and a regular input of nitrogen-rich materials. These include fruit, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, grass cuttings and other materials.
Make the most of falling leaves: As the days pass you would probably fall in love with the hues of different leaves. From the bright reds to the yellows you should probably admire them and then keep the leaves for your compost heap. This will help keep the compost mulch better during winter.
Living in Urban Locations: Compost indoors by reducing the amount of organic waste and produce your own compost for all your potted plants. You can do this for balcony planters and your plot in the community garden. Several different methods are used for composting indoors which are compact and odor-free. This is perfect for people that live in small apartments. Keep a container with the lid and handle under the sink and make sure it is a stainless steel compost pail with an air filter. Cut the large chunks into smaller chunks before you throw them in. Once the container is full you should take out the composter and add the contents.
Compost Green Materials: Compost everything from coffee grounds and filters and fruit and vegetable scraps. Also, do not forget to do fresh grass clippings and plant trimmings from the garden. Add garden soil to your compost as it will help cut out the odors and add microorganisms that will accelerate the composting process.
Brown Materials to Compost: Woodchips, sawdust, dry leaves, straw, dry hay, dried grass cuttings, egg shells, shredded paper and nut shells, paper towels and paper tubes. These are some of the many brown materials that can be composted.
Items Not To Compost: Do not compost fish, eggs, dairy, meat, grease, bones, dog or cat waste or old plants. Remember also not to add anything that was treated with pesticides like peach and banana peels. Black walnuts should not be added to the compost pit. Make sure that no machine oil or chain oil is added.
Composting is great for your home and garden. If done right, it will be great for your plants all around your home. It can be used in balconies, potted plants, and sometimes used to boost the nutrients of vertical gardens. The best part is that composting is free. So you if you have a lot of garden ideas in mind then you should remember that composting is the first step to ensuring that your plants are well fed and grow well in nutritious soil.
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