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Composting: Get the Most from Your Garden

May 29th is National Composting Day! We are here to give you a list of the best ingredients for a perfect compost.

Living eco-friendly is all the rage now. Composting is one of the easiest ways you can help lower your carbon foot print while giving your garden nutrients to grow. It’s easy to start and continue making compost because it comes from items you use every day. Yard clippings and food scraps make up thirty percent of what we throw away. Most of that waste can be composted and given back to the earth as nutrients for the soil.

How does composting work?

Composting is a natural decay and decomposition process. During the process, microorganisms from the soil eat waste that contains carbon and break it down to its simplest parts. Humus is the result of this process and is fiber-rich, and contains inorganic nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

The material is broken down through aerobic respiration. The compost requires oxygen to be introduced during decomposition. That’s why many compost tubs come with a hand crank for you to easily turn the tub and introduce more oxygen.

Compost decomposes fastest at 120-160 degrees Fahrenheit. It will still decompose at lower temperatures but the process will be much, much longer. You can purchase a compost thermometer to measure the core temperature of your bin or pile.

Tips for The Best Compost.

I bet you’re wondering, “Where do I keep a decomposing pile of dirty and organic waste?” Well there are many ways you can compost. If you live in a drier climate you can create a pile outside. When creating a compost pile, you want it to be easily manageable so don’t make it too big 3’x3’x3′ is the recommended size for the pile. This way you can use a pitchfork or shovel to easily turn the compost to aerate.

Easily build your own compost bin with wooden pallets. Clean wooden pallets make great compost bins! Simply connect three pallets together at the corners to create an open square. If you’re feeling fancy, add another pallet with hinges for a door!

For those living in cooler climates, you can look into outdoor composting bins or tumbler. You can purchase these premade, or DIY a tub that is easy to stir with still providing good airflow. The tumblers work best because you can close the doors and easily turn a handle to aerate the compost.

If you live in a smaller place that doesn’t have the room for a compost pile or large compost tumbler, the easiest way to compost is with a small bucket with a lid. Ensure your lid can seal tightly. Drill holes in the lid to allow air flow. It’s very easy to mix up the compost in a bin with a hand shovel or hand rake. Or you can go a little cuter with a nice prebuilt compost bucket from a local store.

Your compost piles should be wet but not damp. As you are building your compost pile and adding more items, be sure that each layer is moist as it’s added. The top of your compost pile or bin should always be moist, especially in the summer months.

Have you been composting for a while an now the pile is starting to….stink? Your compost pile is smelly because there is a large number of anaerobic microbes which are breaking down your compost pile but creating a stench in process. By aerating your compost regularly, you can cut down on the anaerobic process and create air spaces within the compost to eliminate the smell.

What to Put in Compost?

Deciding what to put in compost is fairly simple. Most food scraps, aside from meat, and yard clippings can be stirred into compost. But the most important thing is to remember what makes up the items you are putting in the bin. The microbes that break down the compost require a steady and balanced diet of nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen comes from most things green like food scraps and grass clippings. Carbon comes from brown materials like dead leaves, hay, and wood. You want a ratio that is equal based on weight, not volume.

Do Put in Your Bin:

  • Grass clippings. But not too much! Piles made up of just grass clippings will compact and reduce oxygen flow.
  • Vegetable peels
  • Fruit rinds
  • Coffee grounds. Worms love coffee grounds!
  • Algae and seaweed. Be sure to rinse off any salts before using.
  • Egg shells
  • Woody stalks
  • Corn cobs and husks

Don’t Put in Your Bin:

  • Meats
  • Dairy Products
  • Pet or animal waste (this will attract pests to the pile than can spread disease)
  • Plants that have been treated with pesticides and/or herbicides.
  • Plants with disease
Use the table above to determine what is going in your compost and what it’s providing.

The Finished Product

The finished product should be a soil like, dense mixture. Spread the compost 2-4 weeks before planting to be sure your soil has soakedup all the nutrients you’ve introduced.

For more information on gardening, or gardening tips, check out our blog Gardening Guides.

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