Composting: Feed your plants what you don't eat

 

As temperatures rise, rains fall, and the days begin to grow longer, we find ourselves looking outdoors for ways to spend our time. That patch of grass in your backyard starts to look like it was destined to be more than just a badminton field or a nice place to play horseshoes.

Maybe thinking of all of the backyard BBQs you plan to have in the coming months is starting to spark something in your mind. Perhaps grass isn’t the only plant that you can grow in your yard. That’s right--all of that green space can be tilled and planted to cultivate your own fresh vegetables that you and your family can enjoy all summer long

Setting up a vegetable patch is the easy part. Keeping your plants healthy and providing them with the nutrients they need to be bountiful is where it can get tricky. For that there is compost. It’s referred to as ‘the other black gold’ and it is made up of the biodegradable material that you throw away everyday. With a eco-conscious  mindset and a little effort, you can make your own black gold in your backyard or even in your kitchen.

This article is here to help you learn about the basics of composting. Hopefully by the time you finish reading it, you will already be keeping a mental inventory of what you've already thrown away. Just promise us that you'll use gloves before you start digging into your trash can...

 
iMAGE cOURTEST OF: EARTH911.COM

iMAGE cOURTEST OF: EARTH911.COM

 

What can I compost?

You can compost most organic debris. An ideal composting mixture includes a 30:1 (Brown:Green)  mixture of two types of organic matter:

Green (Nitrogen-Based) Brown (Carbon-Based)
-Grass & Plant Clippings
-Uncooked Fruit & Vegetable Scraps
-Eggshells
-Chicken, Horse, & Cow Manure
-Coffee Grounds & Tea Bags
-Bone Meal
-Blood Meal
-Aquatic Plants
-Dry Leaves
-Finely Chopped Wood & Bark
-Shredded Newspaper
-Straw
-Corrugated Cardboard
-Wood Ash
-Natural Cotton & Wool
-Woody Hedge Clippings

Avoid composting pet waste, cooked food, and meat. These materials tend to have fats and greases in them which can hinder the composting process, create a foul odor, and attract animals to the pile. However, there are ways to compost this type of waste using another method which we will provide information for in the next section.

 

Rich in calcium, eggshells are a great additive for compost. 

Egg Shells are a great additive to compost.  Photo Courtesy of www.Buzznigeria.com

Egg Shells are a great additive to compost. 

Photo Courtesy of www.Buzznigeria.com

How does Composting work?

 

 

Composting uses five key ingredients to break down organic debris. They are air, nitrogenous debris (greens), carbon-based debris (browns), and moisture. Layering green and brown debris into a large heap creates a warm, moist environment where air-loving aerobic bacteria can grow and consume the contents of the compost pile. Over time, this bacteria carefully digests organic debris resulting in the black gold that you can use in your garden.

Cooked food and meat can be broken down by using the Bokashi fermentation method, which uses a special bran that allows to break fats, and proteins through a process called anaerobic respiration
 

A typical design for a three bin compost heap

A typical design for a three bin compost heap Photo Courtesy of: Renoir's Home & Garden

A typical design for a three bin compost heap

Photo Courtesy of: Renoir's Home & Garden

Where should I put my compost pile?

 

A compost pile should be conveniently located downwind of your home in a partially shaded area. Moisture is a key ingredient for making compost; too much sun can dry out your pile and prevent your organic debris from degrading. A compost pile is ideally placed on top of bare earth rather than a paved surface. Remove any vines or small fast growing plant growth from around your compost pile; oftentimes these types of plants can remove valuable nutrients from your compost.

 

Give Me the Step by Step

Step 1: Collect green and brown organic debris.

Step 2: Layer a 30:1 (Brown:Green) mixture of your organic debris into a large heaping pile.    

Step 3: Periodically turn the debris weekly to allow for more organic matter to breakdown

Step 4: As your compost pile begins to grow enough bacteria you won't have to turn the debris as frequently. 

Tips 

1. Your compost pile should never have a foul smell, this is a sign that there is not a proper ration of green to brown debris.

2. The center of your compost pile should be warm, about 140 Degrees F. This heat kills most seeds that could possibly germinate later when it is used in the garden. 

3. If your compost becomes too dry, it is okay to wet the pile, however this may be a sign that your compost is receiving too much sunlight. 

4. When your compost is ready it should look like a uniform black earthy smelling soil. There should not be debris that hasn't been decomposed in finished compost. 

 
Completed  Compost Photo courtesy of: www.compost-now.xyz

Completed  Compost

Photo courtesy of: www.compost-now.xyz