Composting offers an excellent method of transforming your household’s organic waste into a valuable additive for your garden’s soil. Whether you have a green thumb or a talent for killing plastic plants, composting is easy to learn and will enhance whatever plants you are attempting to grow. Mature compost is a free fertilizer for your garden, and it won’t burn your plants like chemical fertilizers can. When you add compost to the soil, you are improving its overall texture and enabling it to drain water more efficiently.
Before you begin composting, it’s important to know what you should and shouldn’t compost.
- Vegetable and fruit scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Yard debris (e.g. grass, leaves, plant trimmings)
- Shredded newspaper, toilet paper rolls, and paper towels
- Dryer and vacuum lint
- Animal fur and hair
- Straw, wood chips, and sawdust
- Dairy products
- Grease, lard, fat, and oil
- Fish and meat scraps
- Plants that have been treated with commercial pesticides
- Kitty litter
Do choose a composting bin and tumbler that will meet your needs. Composting bins will hasten the composting process, but composting bins are more affordable.
Don’t start your new compost pile with too few materials. The more organic waste you have to add to your compost pile, the faster your compost pile will mature. There will be more bacteria present to breakdown the materials you add to it.
Do keep your compost pile moist. This is especially important in the hot summer months. The bacteria that break down organic waste require moisture to keep working efficiently.
Don’t forget to rotate your compost every so often. If you have a compost tumbler, you’ll need to rotate the drum 2 to 4 times every 3 or 4 days. If you have a compost bin, you’ll need to use a shovel or pitchfork to mix the contents once a week or so. This provides the compost pile with more oxygen and spreads the bacteria around.
The recommended location for a compost pile is in your backyard; however, if live in an apartment or do not have enough room in your backyard, then it is possible to use a compost tumbler and keep the compost in your garage, a shed, or even your basement. If you do decide to put your compost pile in your backyard, make sure to find a shady, dry spot that is located near a water source.
Once you’ve found the perfect spot, you’re ready to begin adding waste to your new pile. Ideally, your compost pile should be an even mixture of green and brown materials. Green materials are rich in nitrogen, while brown materials are high in carbon. Both will be needed to effectively compost. Groups of each color should be layered. A brown layer laid on top of a green layer will mask the smell of the green materials, which is help in keeping away flies and other insects. Dry materials should be moistened when they are added to your compost pile. If your compost pile is not placed inside of a covered bin, make sure to cover it with a tarp.
Do have patience. Depending on the type of container it is kept in, the climate, and other factors, it can take a pile of composting materials between two months and two years to mature. You might wish to consider adding worms to your compost pile to speed the process along. Compost requires attention and maintenance. Your compost will be ready to add to your garden once it has become a rich dark brown color.
Don’t use compost as a replacement for fertilizer. Finally, compost should not be used as a replacement for plant fertilizer. Rather, it should be used as a complement to it. The nutrients that compost releases are often too slow to add all of the nutrients plants require for growth. Instead, view compost as a soil additive that will improve the chemical, physical, and biological properties of your garden’s soil.