Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At the simplest level, the process of composting simply requires making a heap of wetted organic matter (leaves, "green" food waste) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months.
Compost can be rich in nutrients. It is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, and agriculture. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil.
Composting organisms require four equally important ingredients to work effectively:
The Benefits of Composting
There are many benefits to starting a compost bin.
How do you get this 'miracle' soil?
Compost is widely available. You can purchase bagged compost or make your own. At Geddie's, we offer a bagged composted cow manure and also a cottonburr compost. Or you can go the real gardener route and create your own compost. Making your own compost gets the entire family involved as it is a group effort. Its a great way to teach children about recycling and gardening all in one!
What exactly is 'in' compost?
Similar to a homemade family recipe, compost is different every time depending on what materials go into it, and there is generally no single perfect list of ingredients to make a good product. Typical ingredients include fruit and vegetable trimmings from your kitchen, old plants from your vegetable garden, and leaves and grass clippings from your yard.
There is no precise recipe or formula for making compost beyond the simple ratio of 3 parts “browns” to 1 part “greens.” Most “browns” come from trees, and they are rich in carbon (often abbreviated as C in composting lingo). “Greens” come from fresher, juicier materials like garden and kitchen waste, but any ingredient that is rich in nitrogen (N) qualifies as a green.
Use this simple chart as a guide to help you add the right items to your compost pile and keep out the things that won't break down properly.
Is there a secret to making compost?
A good rule of thumb is to make sure your compost pile is about equal with 'greens' and browns'
Every gardener has plenty of greens in summer, followed by an abundant supply of browns in the fall. To make it fast and convenient to balance your compost, save up shredded leaves and pine needles in the fall, and store them in trash bags, an old garbage can, or large wire pen. In summer, should watermelon rinds and spent plants overload your compost with greens, layering on some leaves will set things to right. Composters who live in areas where leaves are scarce often use shredded newspaper to keep summer compost from going gloppy with too many greens.
Where should I place my compost pile?
Be sure to locate your bin in an area with good drainage. This will be especially important in the spring when your compost pile will produce excess moisture. Finally, make sure that the location is convenient and accessible all year round. If possible avoid direct sunlight and areas exposed to strong winds, which can dry and cool the pile. A half day sun situation is ideal. Don't place your pile directly against wooden buildings, fences or trees, because wood in contact with compost will decay. Your compost pile may be a thing of beauty to you but not to your neighbors! For some this may not be an issue, but for those who live in higher population areas, this may be something to think about.
Camoflaging a compost pile can be done in many creative ways. Surrounding the pile with tall flowers or plants or using a vine trellis are just a few examples of how to blend a compost pile into its surroundings.
Building a Compost Bin
You can choose to either purchase a commercial compost bin or build your own. If you prefer to purchase one, they usualy run anywhere for $50 to $250 dollars. If you are a handy type ( or have a hubby that is) you can easily build your own from easy to find supplies.
If building your own, it will need to be about 3ft x 3ft x 3ft squared. This is a good size to go with and is easy to manage. Old pallets are also an easy way to quickly build a compost bin.
Here's a few examples-
As you can see, your compost bin can be created out of all kinds of materials. The most important thing is what you put in it and the care that you give it to help it work its magic!
Creating your Layers
Now is the fun part- let's build your compost pile! Always start on bare earth so the beneficial worms and organisms can do their handy work. Begin with a layer of browns (dried grass clippings and leaves, sawdust and newspaper), then add a layer of greens (vegetable and fruit peels and scraps, tea bags, and coffee grounds and filters) and finish by covering with a layer of browns.
Ensure you add a balanced amount of brown and green material to the pile and as you add to the pile throughout the season, be sure to alternate layers of browns and greens - always finishing with a layer of browns on top.
Keep your compost pile moist by watering it occasionally or let the rain do it for you!
Keep your compost covered. 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 soggy.
Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This helps to aerate the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning "adds" oxygen.
When is my compost ready?
Patience is an important virtue for composters, because compost matures in its own time. Warm conditions help compost work much faster in summer than in winter. New heaps made in the fall often mature the following summer. In comparison, midsummer compost made from garden and kitchen waste is finished within a few weeks, because many more microorganisms are active in warm weather. Then things slow down again in the fall.
When it’s ready to use, compost has a crumbly texture and a rich, earthy smell.