Whether you have a small herb garden or a substantial plot where you grow all manner of plants, compost can provide your soil with the nutrition it needs. While you can pick some up in any garden center, making your own compost is simple, inexpensive, and will help you cut down on food waste at home. Here is a quick guide to get you started.
Finding the Right Compost Container
Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes and can be made out of a variety of materials. You can pick up a bin from the store, or you can simply make your own. If you don’t need a lot of compost, then a large plastic tote should do the trick. When composting for a bigger garden area, it’s a good idea to start a pile and box it off on either three or all four sides using materials such as wooden pallets. The structure doesn’t have to be fancy, just as long as it holds everything together.
What Should Go in Your Compost
Compost needs to have a good mix of carbon-rich, or “brown” materials, and nitrogen-rich, or “green” materials. Brown materials include things like fallen leaves, sawdust, woodchips, twigs and branches, straw, paper, and cardboard. Green materials are usually common kitchen scraps, including fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, and juice pulp. Grass clippings and fresh leaves are a good source of nitrogen as well.
The ratio of carbon and nitrogen in your compost should be roughly equal, but you don’t need to worry about taking exact measurements. Eyeballing your materials when you add them in is plenty good enough. Bacteria and other decomposers will use the nitrogen provided by the green materials to break down the carbon in your compost.
What Shouldn’t Go in Your Compost
There are some materials which shouldn’t be composted because they take too long to break down, because they attract pests and animals, or because they will hurt your compost quality. This includes things like meat and dairy, highly processed foods, foods containing a high amount of fat, grease, or oil, cat and dog waste, diseased plants, or chips from pressure-treated wood.
Compost Maintenance Tips
After your bin or pile is all set up, it won’t require too much time or effort to maintain. Your primary maintenance task will be to aerate the compost about once a week by using a shovel or a spade to mix up the materials. Aerating helps to ensure that all of the beneficial organisms in the compost are getting moved around and getting the oxygen they need to do their job.
When turning your compost over, pay attention to the moisture levels as well. If the compost is too dry, then it will take too long to break down properly. Add extra water as necessary to make the compost damp, but be careful not to oversaturate it.
Composting is a fun and easy hobby with numerous benefits that any green thumb will appreciate. Adding some of your homemade compost to your garden soil will encourage healthier and more robust plant growth, making for a more enjoyable time gardening and helping to secure a successful harvest.