Healthy & Beautiful Gardens
Compost – how to make it
Friday, October 25th, 2013
Issue 43, Volume 17.
All of that material is great for your compost pile so donít put it in that "green waste" bin and let somebody else take it; itís your "black gold" for the garden.
Compost is organic matter that has decomposed to a stage that is readily useable in the garden to amend your soil and thereby feed your plants. There is a fairly specific "ratio" of components that you need to add in order to facilitate the breakdown of the materials you put in.
Put in simpler terms, you want to have about a 2-1 ratio of carbon based plant matter – twigs, dead leaves, woody prunings, sawdust, woodchips, etc. – to your green matter – grass clippings, kitchen scraps such as vegetable and fruit rinds, coffee grounds, and egg shells.
I donít want to forget to mention moisture, which is very important when making compost. You donít want the pile to be wet, nor soggy, but damp, kind of like a wrung out sponge. Youíll get a feel for this after youíve been making it awhile, itís not difficult to gauge. If your piles are out in the open, you could cover them with tarps to help keep them moist after you water them.
Alright, so youíve got your ingredients, now what? Well, you have several choices at this point. I recommend layering, almost like making lasagna if you will, with your ingredients to start. If you just pile it all up together, mix well, and keep it slightly moist, it will compost. It may take several months, but it will happen.
If you want to speed this process up, you will need to turn your compost fairly regularly –the aeration helps speed up the decomposition or breaking down of the ingredients weíve added.
There is the tried and true, but a little laborious, Three Bin System. You have three bins and you are going to start the compost in the first bin. After about a week you will move the contents of the first bin into the second bin and then refill the first bin withnew materials.
A week later you repeat the process, the second bin now gets moved over to the third bin – hopefully itís useable now or will be soon – and the first bin gets moved into the second again, and you can re-fill the first with fresh material again.
Once you start adding the finished product into your garden you will start to see an amazing difference in your plants. It takes awhile, this isnít a "fertilizer fix" like the chemicals give, but its far better, and as a bonus you should begin to see lots more earthworms – a real bonus in the garden as they aerate the soil and leave behind a little something that the plants love as well.
I find with compost itís similar to making yogurt or even sourdough bread. If you understand the concept behind how those are made, you need a "starter". Itís not essential, but I find it definitely speeds the process up. So after youíve created your first batch of compost, save some and mix it in with your new stuff. It has the microbes in it that speed everything up and gives you that dark sweet smelling compost your garden needs.
The "Cadillacís" of composters are those large tumblers that you add the ingredients to through a door. They have paddles or mixers inside and a handle on the outside that allows you to turn the entire drum regularly. Your compost gets done very quickly this way, although you canít keep adding to it as you can with the bin system, or with piles.
Almost forgot, what happens when youíve got all the right ratio of ingredients together – youíve got the moisture correct and you are aerating it occasionally by turning it – it heats up! That heat is what kills pathogens and any bad stuff that you donít want in your compost; it is what makes it go from a bunch of table scraps, dirt, and twigs into "black gold" for the garden.
This is the best type of recycling we can do. We are using our own waste instead of adding to the landfill. If you have kids, get them involved, too, itís a great science/nature lesson for them.
As always, if you have any questions or would like a professional consultation, call or email me. Happy composting!
Country Gardens Landscape Design
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