In an effort to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce your carbon footprint, many people are choosing to make a home garden. In order to have a healthy garden with plants that produce a bountiful harvest, you’re going to have to spend some time and money on it.
Some people will tell you that you need expensive chemicals and plant food to give your plants the boost it needs, but when you know how to compost, you can give your plants the nutrition they need without the cost. All you need is the right materials and the proper equipment.
Here, we are going to talk about how to compost, how to use the compost, and how to maintain your compost pile.
Essential Elements For A Good Compost
When you’re planning for a good garden, it’s important that your ground has all the nutrients necessary to ensure that your plants are going to thrive. To build your compost pile is pretty simple and it takes care of itself—if you build it right.
1. Start With A Compost Container
A compost pile is made from organic material that is decomposing. The container that you are going to be using doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate. All you need is some way to hold the compost together so that the good bacteria can break down the organic material (kitchen waste, yard trimmings, grass clippings, etc.) and create heat.
There are two types of bins that you could choose from:
- Stationary bins can be something as simple as a cage that you made with a couple posts and chicken wire, or it could a kit that you can build to make crates. A bin that has been designed will is going to be able to keep the heat and moisture inside the pile, thus turning the plant material into compost much quicker.
- Compost tumblers are bins that you can turn to speed up the breakdown process. This is because the tumbler infuses oxygen into the compost and it has superior heat retention. You can maximize the progress of your compost by putting it in a space with plenty of sunlight for more heat.
2. Choose The Right Blend Of Ingredients
- If you want a compost pile that is very low maintenance, then it is going to have a combination of green and brown plant material, as well as enough moisture so that the good bacteria in the compost happy. If you’re looking for brown material, you can use dead leaves, wood chips, and even shredded newspaper. For green material, this can be grass clippings and kitchen refuse.
- If you plan on using kitchen refuse, you’ll want to avoid anything like meats, fish, and dairy products because it can attract vermin, wild dogs, and other pests. If you’re using a container, you can start putting the ingredients right on top of the ground. It is a good idea that you put the larger materials down first to promote a decent amount of air flow.
- Each time you add some green material to your pile, you’ll want to add brown so that there’s a decent balance of moisture and air flow.
3. Maintaining Your Pile
Once you’ve started your pile, you’re going to want to make sure you take care of it. While it is true that you can have a pile that basically takes care of itself, it’s still a good idea to do these things:
- Always add fresh ingredients (both green and brown) so that the bacteria in the pile have plenty of stuff to eat and break down.
- Turn the pile with a pitchfork or a compost aerator at least twice a month so that everything is combined well. Once you’ve mixed the pile, you’ll be able to see if it is moist or not.
- If the pile isn’t moist, you will want to water the pile from time to time so that there is enough moisture so that the pile continues to decompose.
How To Compost Tips
These tips will help you make the most out of your compost pile.
- You can add activators to your compost pile to jump start the decomposition process and speed up composting. Most common activators include: comfrey leaves, young weeds, grass clippings, rotted animal manure.
- The rotting vegetation in the compost pile is going to attract fruit flies and other insects. You can discourage these pests by covering the pile with a tarp, lid, or brown material. You’ll want to keep a pile of grass clippings next to your pile so that whenever you add kitchen scraps, you can cover it with the clippings. You can also add calcium or lime to stop flies.
- As time progresses, your compost pile is going to create some very unpleasant smells. If you live out in the middle of nowhere, that isn’t going to be much of a concern. However, if you live in a urban or suburban area, those odors are going to offend your neighbors. You can reduce (and sometimes even eliminate) those odors by never putting meat or bones into the pile, and always covering the green material with brown.
- If you notice that your compost pile is steaming, don’t worry. Your pile isn’t burning or anything like that, the steam is evidence of all those micro-organisms are doing their job and eating away at the compost.
- It is a common occurrence when a compost pile becomes soggy and the plant material starts to clump together. To stop or prevent this from happening, you will want to set the materials to the sides of the compost and gradually add them in with other ingredients, or you can use a pitchfork to aerate and separate the clumps.
- If there is a raccoon problem in your area, you are going to have some run ins with a few raccoons. The most effective way of keeping the masked bandits from your compost is by blocking the pile off. This can be done by using a metal or wooden lid that can be hinged to the top of your compost container. You may want to have a lock on the lid or something to hold the lid down because raccoons can be quite determined!
- Compost is intended to be an additive to help the existing soil, it should not be treated as the sole growing medium.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
While composting is incredibly easy, it is possible to make a few mistakes along the way. The following are some common mistakes people run into when making their first compost pile:
- Don’t be afraid to start off big. The decomposition process needs a lot of mass to do its job, so the more material you have in the pile, or can add to the pile, the better off your compost will be. With that said, you can use some compost bins for smaller amounts of compost. It is a good idea to consider your needs first before starting your pile.
- Always make sure that your compost pile is nice and moist. Unless you’re adding new material to your pile each day, it’s easy to forget to rotate the material and moisten it if you need to. You have to make a conscious effort to monitor the moisture in your compost pile so that it can continue to decompose. This is especially important during the hot and dry seasons.
- Never create a pile out of just one material. To get the best blend of nutrients, you’ll want to have a combinations of ingredients so that your plants can develop resistances to diseases and pests.
- Although composting isn’t difficult, it is easy to get overwhelmed, especially when your pile grows and grows. You might feel like you have a huge pile of garbage, but with time it will become compost that you can use for your plants.
How To Compost Summary
When you’re gardening, you’re going to want to do whatever you can to make sure that your plants are healthy and they will produce beautiful flowers or delicious fruits and vegetables. Composting is the best way you can do that because not only are you using your kitchen and yard waste to create food for your plants, but it is cost effective and it reduces your carbon footprint.
Once you decide that you’d like to start a compost pile, you will want to follow the tips we discussed in this article. While it is true that composting isn’t difficult, you don’t want a huge pile of sludge in the back yard that attracts pests, either.
A well-fed and well-maintained compost pile can be the very thing that will take your mediocre garden to the next level. When you combine the compost with the potting soil, your plants will get a ton of nutrients that will promote growth and produce high quality vegetables and beautiful flowers.