Composting for Your Garden
Compost in your garden
How to Compost
Composting is one of the best ways to amend your soil and have the biggest and tastiest vegetables in the neighborhood. Composting is natural and organic and beats out fertilizers and except for some specific requirements like calcium and potassium to prevent bottom rot on tomatoes. It is the best way to improve your gardening soil. Composting consists of saving organic material from your kitchen and other gardening endeavours. If you live in a community where garbage costs extra (to reduce the impact on landfill) composting can save you several dollars per month as well just in reduced output to the curb. In fact when composting is done correctly there is little smell and no vermin to worry about.
Composting has some do’s and don’ts and it’s important to follow the simple rules to great soil
Kitchen vegetable trimmings and rotten vegetables, eggshells, leaves, plant trimmings (like your tomato plant at the end of the season)
Do Not include:
Animal faeces, meat, cooking grease (or any animal by-product) weeds and hard branches.
Include in moderation: Grass clippings. Too many grass clippings will just result in straw.
Can you think of anything else? If in doubt consider this rule of thumb: No animal based by-product or weeds and yes to plant based material except for grass.
Flowers grow well in compost
Where to start a compost heap.
Compost “works” or goes through a microbial process to turn plant material into soil. The process can happen in as little as 6 weeks or as long as a year, depending on a couple of factors. Compost works quickest when kept damp and in the sun. Compost that dries out does not permit the microbial action and compost that is too cold will not turn into soil quickly. A perfect spot would be in an inconspicuous place in the backyard close to a source of water.
How the process works:
You start by building a large wooden box with no bottom but with a top. One cubic yard or so will be plenty unless you have several acres to compost. Put a a trap door big enough for a shovel at the bottom. It can be built from scrap wood but pressure treated lumber should be avoided. The copper chemicals from the chemical process can leach into your compost and then into your food. You could use old skids which many businesses put at the side of the road for anyone who wants them. Just remember to watch the nails.
If you are worried about the occasional raccoon digging up your compost put a layer of chicken wire on the bottom. This discourages most animals and the only time an animal will work at getting through the wire will be in times of lengthy drought where food is scarce.
For every two inches of composted material add about an inch of soil. The perfect place to get the soil is right out of the trap door at the bottom of your compost pile. This soil will have excellent microbial action.
Adding red wriggler worms can also benefit your compost as they will chew through the garbage and turn it into worm castings quickly. Red wrigglers may not winter well so it’s important to replenish them every spring Regular earthworms are also good for the compost and will not cost you a cent if you catch them at night when they come out of their holes.
Alternatives to the wooden box: There are many commercial composters on the market. If you go this route you will only need a small one for the average size house and yard. Compost made in a commercial spinner barrel converts quickly. If you were to fill your composter to its maximum capacity you will find that it has decreased in bulk to one half its original volume in just a day or two. The commercial spinner barrel also has the advantage of mobility so you can move it to the next spot you need good soil.
Still another inexpensive option is to check with your town or city and there may be a composting program where the local government will sell you a subsidized or at cost black plastic container. The price on these may be as little as $10.00 (I got 2 for $8.00 each)
If you haven’t tried composting try it out and see the results.