Learn How to Make Compost
Compost not only recycles garbage to where it has benefits, it gives the soil the healthy bacteria and nutrients that it needs. Best of all, making compost isn’t difficult to do – it simply requires a little patience and diligence.
Anyone who grows their own food knows that it all starts with the soil and the nutrients it gets. There are many commercially prepared fertilizers, but most organic farmers and gardeners prefer using natural compost. Naturally made, especially if it is on-site, compost is very beneficial for organic gardening whether it is large scale commercial, a family business or just as a ‘back yard’ hobby.
What is Compost?
Compost in and of itself should have three components that make it up: water, “green” waste (vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, lawn clippings, etc.) and “brown” waste (tree branched, twigs and dried leaves).
“Green” waste provides nitrogen and “brown waste” provides carbon, two essentials in healthy soil.
The water keeps the whole thing moist and easily broken down absorbed by the garden soil bedding.
How is Compost Created?
Compost piles do not happen overnight. This is something that needs to be started a few weeks to a few months ahead of time at the very least. Some compost piles are left to develop for as long as two years.
There is no set way to have a compost pile or bin, although the indoor bins will produce faster results.
One method for getting a compost pile started in your back yard is to find a shady spot and chop the brown and green waste into smaller bits as it is collected, moistening with water periodically. It is also a good idea to have a backyard compost pile near a water source. Once the pile has gotten going, then the grass clippings and fruit and vegetable waste as well as other strictly green waste materials can be added and buried ten inches below the original pile. This pile can be left for up to two years and is ready in generally two months or when the green waste added and buried is a dark color. A tarp can be placed on top to seal it, but that isn’t required.
Another method for outdoor backyard composting also requires a shady spot that is preferably near a water source.
Chop the waste into smaller bits as in the first method and cover the bottom with a layer of brown waste approximately six inches in depth.
Then place a three inch layer of green waste along with a bit of dirt or finished compost material, and mix them up a little bit.
After it is mixed, add another three inches of brown waste and moisten with water.
With a pitchfork turn the mixture over every couple of weeks or so, making sure the dry materials are moved toward the middle. Do this for up to four months, depending on the size of the pile, and when it is completed, let sit for a couple of weeks before using.
Indoor Compost Bins
Some people prefer to make indoor bins that can be kept going year round. This is also a good method for people who do not have the room in the yard to keep one.
To make an indoor compost bin, first get a large, clean, plastic garbage can. Drill some holes for ventilation, about 1/2 inch in diameter, at the bottom of the can as well as the sides.
Take a slightly larger garbage can and put a brick in the bottom along with some soil and bits of wood. The smaller can should then be placed inside the larger one, seated firmly on the brick.
The larger can should have some form of insulation wrapped around it tightly and a lid should be kept on top once the compost materials are added. The insulation will keep the compost warm as well as prevent odors and bacteria from building up.
What Can Be Added to a Compost Pile?
There are many things that can be added to a compost pile, however it is important to note that many are not. Some of the things that are acceptable to add are;
- Bits of newspaper or clean paper
- Coffee grounds (including filter)
- Grass clippings
- Human and animal hair clippings
- Ashes from the fireplace
- Leaves from houseplants or outside
- Shells from nuts
- Tea bags
- Rags made out of wool or cotton
- Lint from the dryer or vacuum
- Wood chips and most trimmings from the yard
Worms and castings from developed worm farms or worm composters are also good additions as well as cow or horse manure. These create the healthy bacteria needed to make the compost nutrient rich. The manure should be allowed to dry in the sun for several days before adding to the compost pile.
What Should Not Be Added to a Compost Pile?
There are exceptions to garbage and branches that can be used as they will harm the production and nutrient content of the compost.
Leaves or branches from the black walnut tree should never be used because harmful substances are released from the clippings. These may hurt the plants that will begrown.
Ash from charcoal or regular coal can also harm plants and should not be used.
Dog or cat waste should not be added because of the parasites and diseases that can be passed to the vegetation.
Bones from meat or fish, dairy products, and any lard or oil should not be added because of the tendency to attract rodents and flies as well as causing an unpleasant odor.
Take caution in what dried out plants or leaves are used as not to include ones that have been destroyed by insects. The diseases transported by these insects will be in your compost and a danger to the plants that are being grown.
Last but not least, twigs, branches, leaves and grass clippings that have been treated with any kind of chemical pesticide should not be added because it may succeed in killing the healthy living organic matter.
Using the Compost
Once the compost is broken down completely, it is now ready to use in the garden. Indoor and outdoor gardens alike will benefit from the compost that has been so carefully cultivated.
For an indoor herb garden, place a layer of compost on top of the soil bedding for your herbs and watch them flourish.
For outside gardens or even commercial organic farms, the compost should be put on top of the soil when planting. It should be continually used throughout the time that the plants are growing to top off the soil. It isn’t necessary to mix the compost through once it is laid down, although there are some who choose to do this. Others however feel it is much better to simply lay the compost down and let nature do its work.
Compost a Continuous Process of Give and Take
The best part about the compost bin or pile is that it can continue to flourish for many years to come. Continue to add and cultivate your starter pile and keeping it filled with carbon rich brown waste and nutrient rich green waste.
More people growing their own food and producing their own compost in this way would decrease the garbage that overflows our landfills and it is a great way to dispose of yard waste. Maybe then we can finally get back to what this land is supposed to be about – a continuous process of give and take.
Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright © 2011 HousePlantsForYou.com all rights reserved