Mother Nature has used organic material as decomposing compost for millions of years. Composting is the process of turning organic material into rich soil and garden nutrients. And, the best part: it’s free!
Think of composting as nature’s way of recycling. Instead of filling up the city dump, composting’s an easy way to transform yard clippings and fruit or vegetable scraps into rich, soil-building nutrients.
Home composting can save money and help gardeners become self-reliant with a nutrient-rich garden. Adding organic material to the soil helps improve moisture retention and provides a healthy nutrient balance to the soil.
• Help the environment by reducing garden and kitchen waste
• Save money by replacing store bought chemicals with organic matter
• Increase garden soil nutrients
1. Choose a good composting location
Pick a sunny location with 1 cubic yard of space (3-feet x 3-feet x3-feet). Better locations will get equal hours of sunlight and shade, with a water source nearby and close to the garden area.
2. What to compost and what to avoid
Greens (nitrogen-rich materials): grass clippings, flowers, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, fruit scraps, eggshells, tea bags, plant and tree cuttings.
Browns (carbon-rich materials): dried leaves, wood chips, tree cuttings, sawdust, straw and hay, newspaper, shredded non-glossy paper, paper towels and shredded cardboard.
Avoid using: meat, bones, dog or cat feces, diseased plants and treated wood.
3. How to get started composting
Build the compost pile in the chosen location. Begin with a 6-inch layer of shredded paper or dried leaves. These are rich in carbon and should work well as the first layer. Chop or shred the organic matter before placing them in the compost bin or pile. Smaller pieces help speed up the decomposition process. Use a shovel, shredder, or lawnmower to chop the organic materials. The smaller the pieces; the faster they will break down.
Mix equal parts of greens and browns into the bin or pile. Use as many different types of greens and browns as possible. Nature responds well to a balanced variety. The compost pile should be at least 3-feet wide to maintain it’s internal heat for decomposition.
Sprinkle several shovels of healthy garden soil on top. This helps boost the level of microbes in the soil needed to break down the organic materials.
Add water as you build the compost, and maintain a damp moisture level. Turn the pile and add water each week to provide good air circulation and moisture. The compost pile will get hot, up to 140°F. This speeds up the composting process. Compost can be ready in 4 to 6 weeks. Do not add new material to the pile. Save it for your next compost pile or build a second pile.
4. Where to use compost
Compost as mulch
Spread a layer of compost 1 to 3-inches deep around plants and over bare soil to prevent soil erosion, conserve water and control weed growth.
Compost as soil conditioner
Dig about 6-inches of compost into the soil each time when starting a new flower or vegetable garden or when planting new trees or shrubs.
Compost as potting mix
Sift the new compost through a ¼-inch screen and use as planting mix. For indoor potted plants, mix together 2 parts compost, 1 part sand and 1 part vermiculite.