Tips on Composting
How to Compost For Your Garden
When you've got a green thumb, you don't make New Year's resolutions to jog more. You resolve to make your garden better than it was the year before.
One of the best ways to do this is by starting your own compost pile.
Composting happens naturally every day. Leaves fall. Trees and grass die. As they break down and decompose, they release nutrients back into the ground, which helps living plants grow and thrive.
By creating your own compost pile and blending that nutrient-rich material into your soil with a cultivator, you can create a garden that's lush, healthy, and productive.
What Are the Benefits of Composting?
The benefits of composting go far beyond a flourishing garden!
As ecological concerns become more prevalent, it's not a bad idea to try to reduce your impact on the environment. Composting allows you to be kind to nature in notable ways:
- Reducing the amount of waste you send to landfills every year
- Reducing your use of chemical fertilizers
If that wasn't enough, by reducing if not completely eliminating your use of chemical fertilizers, you'll save yourself money year over year. That's another kind of green that's easy to appreciate!
What Can I Compost?
For your compost pile, you want a mixture of about two-thirds "brown" materials and one-third "green" materials.
The majority of your compost should be made up of dead or dried organic debris from your yard:
- Dried grass clippings
- Fallen leaves
You can even use sawdust in moderation. Just make sure that no chemicals have been added to whatever you put in the pile.
"Green" materials include kitchen waste, particularly from fruits and vegetables:
- Banana peels
- Apple cores
- Egg shells
- Decaying pumpkins
- Tea leaves
- Coffee grounds
If it's something organic that you would normally throw in the trash, add it to your compost pile instead.
Fresh grass clippings, green leaves, recently pulled weeds, and other bits of lawn debris that haven't dried up also count as "green" materials.
What Can't I Compost?
When preparing your compost pile, it's important to avoid any kind of risk. The following items should NOT be composted:
- Meats, bread, dairy products, and rice - can attract pests and produce foul smells while decaying
- Diseased plants or human or pet animal feces - can pose a danger of transmitting illness
- Organic items that have been treated with chemicals - can leach chemicals into garden soil
Shredded newspaper used to be a popular ingredient for compost, but nowadays, many gardeners prefer not to allow the chemicals from printing ink into their soil.
How to Compost
Composting is as easy as three simple steps:
- Choosing your storage
- Letting it cook
- Using it in your garden and lawn
Choose Your Storage
You have two choices when it comes to storing your compost: an open compost pile or an enclosed compost bin. Each one has its pros and cons:
- Open piles are easier to tend to but are open to the elements and animal pests
- Enclosed compost bins keep out elements such as rain and raccoons but can make adding new materials to the container difficult
If this is your first foray into composting, we recommend going with an open pile, as it takes less effort and money to get going.
Let It Cook
After you've added all the items to your compost heap, you need to let it cook, so to speak. As the materials decompose, the pile will get heated. The ideal temperature for the core of the compost is about 160 degrees; it should feel warm to the touch.
Much like slow-cooking chili, you'll need to mix the compost as it cures. By turning your compost pile, you promote balance between the "green" and "brown" materials. You also help spread warmth from the interior of the pile to the exterior so that your material decomposes evenly.
Be sure to water your compost regularly. Although you don't want your pile to get too damp, keeping it about as moist as a wrung-out sponge will allow the material to break down at a healthy rate.
Use the Compost
After the materials in your pile have decomposed for several weeks, it's time to put all that wonderful compost to use.
These are some of the most popular ways to get the most out of your compost:
- Fertilize your garden: Spread your compost across the earth and mix it into the soil with a cultivator. This will add nutrients several inches down into the soil bed.
- Fertilize your lawn: After you sift the compost to remove the largest chunks, you can spread it over your lawn. The compost will be absorbed slowly as the season goes along.
Composting happens all the time in nature, but by creating your own compost pile, you can bring the bounties of nature into your own backyard. Using compost in your gardening is an easy and affordable way to improve and sustain the health of your plants.