Compost is the single most important supplement you can give your garden. It’s a simple way to add nutrient-rich humus to your lawn or garden that fuels plant growth and restores vitality to depleted soil.
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It’s also free, easy to make, and good for the environment. But composting also has other benefits.
1. Soil Conditioner
With compost, you are creating rich humus for your lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain soil moisture. They don’t call it “black gold” for nothing.
2. Recycles Kitchen and Yard Waste
Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can. That’s important because when organic matter hits the landfill, it lacks the air it needs to decompose quickly. Instead, it creates harmful methane gas as it breaks down, increasing the rate of global warming and climate change.
3. Introduces Beneficial Organisms to the Soil
4. Good for the Environment
Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers when applied to lawns and garden beds.
5. Reduces Landfill Waste
Most landfills in North America are quickly filling up; many have already closed down. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials. Diverting this waste from the landfill means that our landfills will last longer (and so will our wild spaces).
How to Compost
- Start your compost pile on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.
- Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
- Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.
- Add manure, green manure (clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
- Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.
- Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.
- Turn. Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This aerates the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. You can skip this step if you have a ready supply of coarse material like straw. Once you’ve established your compost pile, add new materials by mixing them in, rather than by adding them in layers. Mixing, or turning, the compost pile is key to aerating the composting materials and speeding the process to completion.
Tips for Successful Composting
1. Activate Your Compost
‘Activators’ can be added to your compost to help kick-start decomposition and speed up composting. Common compost activators include: comfrey leaves, grass clippings, young weeds, and well-rotted chicken manure. You can also buy inoculant at your local garden center, though a shovel full of finished compost from another pile works just as well.
2. Flying Insects Attracted to Your Compost?
Small fruit flies are naturally attracted to the compost pile. Discourage them by covering any exposed fruit or vegetable matter. Keep a small pile of grass clippings next to your compost bin, and when you add new kitchen waste to the pile, cover it with one or two inches of clippings. Adding lime or calcium will also discourage flies.
3. Unpleasant Odors from Your Compost Pile?
This can be a concern in urban and suburban areas with small lots and neighbors living close by. Reduce or eliminate odors by following two practices: first, remember to not put bones or meat scraps into the compost; second, cover new additions to the compost pile with dry grass clippings or similar mulch. Adding lime or calcium will also neutralize odors. If the compost smells like ammonia, add carbon-rich elements such as straw, peat moss, or dried leaves.
4. Is Your Compost Pile Steaming?
No problem. A hot, steamy pile means that you have a large community of microscopic critters working away at making compost.
5. Is Your Compost Pile Soggy?
This is a common problem, especially in winter, when carbon-based materials are in short supply. To solve this problem, you’ll need to restore your compost to a healthy nitrogen-carbon balance.
6. Matted Leaves, Grass Clippings Clumping Together?
This is a common problem with materials thrown into the composter. The wet materials stick together and slow the aeration process. There are two simple solutions: either set these materials to the side of the composter and add them gradually with other ingredients, or break them apart with a pitchfork. Grass clippings and leaves should be mixed with rest of the composting materials for best results.
7. Problems with Raccoons?
If there’s a population of raccoons in your area, they will be naturally attracted to your compost pile. The best solution to this problem is to bar their entry to the compost. (Traps and poisons are more trouble than they’re worth.) A wood or metal lid can be easily hinged to the bin described above on this page.
Hope you picked up or created an idea of your own using this article.