Recycling your food and plant waste by making compost for your garden is the single most important step to creating great tasting food and beautiful flowers. Composting feeds your crops, protects your plants against disease, drought, and insects, and improves the soil structure. It’s easy and very much worth any effort that you put into it.
There are as many ways to compost as there are ways to garden. There are only a few things that you need to compost:
1. A receptacle or bin
2. Browns (things high in carbon like dead leaves, straw, or paper)
3. Greens (things high in nitrogen like kitchen wastes, grass clippings, and coffee grounds)
Yes, it is just that simple! Anyone can compost – even people living in apartments wanting to create potent fertilizer for their indoor plants or those on the balcony. You can compost as much or as little as you need.
Check out my composter giveaway HERE.
I have a fairly large garden and many plants on my porches and indoors that need nourishment, therefore I compost for volume. I start my pile with brown (leaves, straw, etc.) and layer green over the brown around a 3 to 1 ratio – more brown. I am able to get at least 6 good batches of compost during the growing season by hot composting.
By “cooking” the compost pile, you will create humus in a very short time (about 2 weeks). The key to keeping your pile hot is to turn it often and make sure that the soil is nice and moist. The compost should feel like a moist sponge.
I have a covered bin and it is near a water source. I keep it around 3′ x 3′ x 3′. This is the optimal size to keep the compost pile hot and for turning it to keep the pile aerated. Compost needs air for the microorganisms to do the work of turning the raw organic matter into humus.
Many people don’t want to take the time to turn their piles and choose to compost an easier way – cool composting. I have a cool compost pile as well as a hot. Granted, it will take 6 months to a year to produce finished compost, but a cool pile allows for material to be added gradually and spares disease-fighting microbes that die during hot composting.
The cool method of composting is as easy as picking up grass clippings and leaves from your yard and creating a pile with them then taking kitchen scraps to the pile as you have them. Once the pile reaches the optimal size (3′ X 3′ X 3′), turn it, cover it, check it for needed moisture every once in a while and wait until it decomposes and turns to humus.
If at any time your hot or cool pile gets slimy, try adding more nitrogen rich substance and incorporating it into the pile. You can add soil to the pile too;
Small Scale or Composting Inside
Some of you may not have the need for a lot of compost. You may only have house plants or a few potted herbs and vegetables. I recommend purchasing a small tumbler for your kitchen or making your own.
You can use old coffee cans. Poke holes in the lid of the can. Put your kitchen waste in the can along with about a cup of coffee grounds and a cup of soil. As you add kitchen waste shake or turn the matter in the can. As you walk by your can, turn it and it should stay nice and aerated. One hint – chop your matter before putting it in the can for faster compost.
Wherever you are, whatever your compost needs, COMPOSTING IS WELL WORTH THE EFFORT! There’s a reason it is called BLACK GOLD!