If you’re going to invest in one thing for your garden this year, let it be your soil health. The easiest way to improve the health of your soil, and help your plants grow to their full potential, is to make your own compost that you can add throughout your garden. So, today we’re going to take you through the basics of how to make super compost.
Composting is a simple, inexpensive way to support plant growth and reduce waste from your household. It doesn’t take a lot of babysitting, it’s mostly hands-off. The compost pile does almost all of the work for you, and you get to enjoy the rewards in your garden. What’s not to like? Making your own high-quality compost at home also means that you get to be in control of the ingredients. You can sleep easy at night knowing exactly what went into your garden.
So, let’s take a look at what goes into making compost, and how you can get started with your own compost pile.
What Exactly Is Compost?
Compost is decomposing organic matter. Organic matter is an important source of essential nutrients for healthy soil, and is beneficial for plant growth.
Not only is compost a natural soil amendment, that will help your garden flourish, it’s also great for the environment. Throwing your kitchen scraps and yard waste into a compost heap keeps them out of the landfill, where they take up space and release greenhouse gases.
Composting uses the natural ability of microorganisms to decompose organic material. In the process, the compost pile heats up with microbe activity, and the compost material is broken down into valuable, reusable components.
What Goes into Compost?
Compost requires both brown and green matter as ingredients, sometimes referred to as carbon and nitrogen components. With the proper mixture, roughly equal parts of the two, you’ll end up with a healthy compost pile that supports microbe activity and has a mild, sweet smell.
Brown matter, or the carbon source, includes things like dry leaves, wood shavings, and twigs. If you have backyard chickens, their bedding or the straw from their nest boxes is a great source of brown matter for your compost. Green matter, or the nitrogen source, is your kitchen waste, like leftover fruits and vegetables, or items from your yard like grass clippings.
The other two important ingredients in a compost recipe are water and oxygen. The compost pile needs to stay moist for optimal decomposition, so it may need to be watered. It also needs to be turned frequently to incorporate pockets of air into the mixture. Many of the microbes in your compost need oxygen to survive, and forgetting to turn it, or keeping it too wet could result in a smelly compost pile.
If you’re starting a new compost pile, layer equal parts green and brown matter, watering each layer as you go. Then start turning the pile every week or two for proper aeration. You’ll need a good sized heaping pile to be able to build up enough heat, but keep it small enough to be manageable for frequent turning.
What Doesn’t Go into Compost?
The general rule, is anything from your kitchen that you can eat, can go into your compost heap, but not all food scraps are good for your compost. Don’t add any food containing meat or dairy products. This will attract scavengers and is a good way to end up with a smelly compost pile.
What Else Do You Need for a Compost Pile?
You can start your compost pile in a bin, or even right on the ground. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just functional. The bin is there to hold all of the ingredients together as they decompose. A pile that’s started directly on the ground, or a bin that has an open bottom, has the added benefit that it can drain easily and is accessible to the soil organisms below.
You can also invest in a composting tumbler. These are usually very easy to turn, and are enclosed, so they retain moisture and heat better than an open pile. In either case, you’ll need a bit of space outside. Choose a sunny spot, so your compost can get as much additional heat as possible.
How Long Does It Take to Make Compost?
It usually takes a few months. But it really depends on your specific setup. The contents of your compost pile, the type of bin (or lack of one), how well you maintain the moisture and aeration of the pile, will all play into the speed of decomposition.
How Do You Know When It’s Done?
Finished compost that’s ready to be used in your garden will have turned into a uniform, dark color. It will be crumbly in texture and slightly sweet smelling. You shouldn’t be able to distinguish any of the individual materials anymore.
How to Make Compost Faster
With proper care, you can have finished compost in as little as a few weeks. You can speed up the process by using small pieces of organic material. Shred leaves and food scraps into small pieces, and avoid items that take longer to decompose, like branches and twigs.
One of the easiest ways to slow down the progress of your compost pile is letting it dry out. So, if you’re trying to make compost faster, make sure to keep it moist at all times. Composting tumblers are usually a faster option since they help lock in moisture and heat, speeding up decomposition. You can also aerate your compost more frequently, as often as every three days, to make sure that your compost is getting well mixed and getting enough oxygen.
What Else Can I Do?
You could buy pre-made compost from the store. But it can sometimes be hard to tell what’s in it, and whether it’s the high-quality stuff that you want in your garden.
Another great way to get nutrient-rich soil if you’re not quite ready to invest the time into a compost pile, is to add an organic product to your soil, like BioEnhancer from Green House Feeding. It includes sea kelp, humic and fulvic acids which help to condition the soil and enhance the plant’s ability to take up nutrients. So, if you do decide to make your own garden compost, it will also help your plants get the most out of those compost nutrients in your fertile soil. Check out Global Garden’s Bio Nutrient Calculator too, which makes it really easy to understand how much product is needed for your specific application.
The End Result
If you’re willing to put in a little bit of time and effort, you can make high-quality compost in your own yard that will work wonders in your garden. It doesn’t take a lot of hands-on work, and composting will quickly become part of your daily routine. It’s simple and doesn’t require a lot of money to get started, so what have you got to lose? Give composting a try this season and watch your garden grow.