Composting Organically!

 

compost-pile

Composting is easy to do, although many place too much emphasis and mystery into what you need to put in your compost. It is hard to compost the wrong way. The first thing you need is a place to put your compost.

Compost is the heart of an organic garden. If you decide to garden organically, you will need to build or buy a compost container because you will need a lot of compost to keep your soil healthy and your plants happy.

Compost Containers.

Composting is easy to do, although many place too much emphasis and mystery into what you need to put in your compost. It is hard to compost the wrong way. The first thing you need is a place to put your compost.

It can be as simple as 4 stakes in the ground with some chicken wire wrapped around them making a container, a couple untreated wooden boards nailed together in a square or rectangle with nothing on the bottom or by staking cement blocks and steadying them with rebar to make a compost bin.

simple-compost-binYou can go fancy and use a metal trash can, putting slits or holes in it so that the compost can breathe or you can buy a handy-dandy compost barrel made out of rubberized or plastic material. Some are even on tripods and have a handle to turn them on occasion.

The compost doesn’t care what kind of container or pile it is in. It works just as well with chicken wire as it does with a turning container with a handle. What you put in IS important.

What do You Put in Your Compost Pile?

Your compost contents should be garden waste, but watch out for weeds. If you do decide to put weeds in, the compost pile will have to age for awhile so the seeds from the weeds are no longer viable and do not sprout when you put the compost in the garden. You can put vegetable kitchen scraps in your compost pile.

Lettuce, tops of carrots or beets, onion peels, coffee grounds, potato peels and such make for great compost.

Grass clippings and leaves are good to put in your compost too. Avoid putting too many oak leaves in because they do not decompose quickly. Put a few leaves of the herb comfrey in because that will break down the compost quicker. Chicken manure is great for your compost pile too as it is rich in nitrogen and that helps the compost decompose well.

If your old wood mulch is getting old, put it in your compost pile and add a little hay and straw. You can keep rodents out of the compost pile by covering kitchen scraps with a little hay or straw and some dirt over top.

This will not keep them out completely, but you can keep kitchen scraps in closed containers outside and once they become unrecognizable and slightly liquid, you can add them to the compost and rodents won’t go near them. You will understand why when you take the lids off the containers as it stinks pretty good.

This smell will not last long in your compost though especially if you add a little dirt and maybe a dusting of lime and dig it in. If you use a composter that has a lid, you don’t have to worry about this much. You will also want to add some water every once in awhile to your pile. . Avoid putting meats, especially greasy ones in your pile as they do not compost well.

How Does Composting Work?

The stuff you put in your compost pile decomposes and gives off a reaction changing it to …. well… dirt. But this dirt is rich in nutrients.

When the contents of your compost pile decomposes, it creates heat and that breaks down all the solids. The decomposition creates bacteria that is good for the garden. It infuses the soil with healthy substances that help plants grow and thrive.

Making Good Compost.

compost-tumblerPut in a combination of brown and green things into your compost; not just one thing.

  • Brown things include hay, straw, manure, wood chips, dry leaves and shredded newspaper – not the color pages.
  • Green things include your kitchen scraps, green leaves, grass clippings and garden waste. Every once in awhile add a few shovel fulls of soil. Turn the compost pile with a pitchfork, if you don’t have a fancy composter that turns itself.

Do this every one or two weeks and check to see if the pile is slightly moist. If it is slimy, you have a drainage problem and need to add more soil and solids. If it is dry, you should water it well.

Do this especially in dry areas. The compost should be moist and you might even find worms in it if it sits directly on the ground. After a few months, you should see the compost develop into a black crumbly substance that smells like earth.

compost-in-tumblerIf you are making your own compost pile and not buying a commercial composter, avoid making it too small. It needs a critical mass in order to break down correctly. The smallest pile should be 3 feet by 3 feet, but if you have a large garden, you will need a bigger pile that that.

Compost is often called black gold by organic gardeners. It is filled with good things for your garden soil and your plants and works as a soil balancer and fertilizer. You can’t go wrong with good compost and it will ensure a great harvest or a beautiful bed of flowers.