Compost is a vital component of any home garden. It provides the nutrients that our plants need to grow and to produce the healthy fruit and vegetables that we want.
But what is compost?
Compost is a combination of organic material, microorganisms, air, water, and a small amount of nitrogen. The proper mixture will provide the necessary ingredients to create nutrient dense, rich compost for your fruit trees and vegetable plants or even for your flower beds.
How do you make compost at home? Here are 7 tips to help you get started.
You can compost just about anything organic that was once alive – leaves, grass, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, even hair and paper towel rolls. A good mix of materials will help the compost process along more quickly. Basically, if it was alive and it’s now dead, it can be composted!
2. What To Do To Make It Work
The compost pile will become an invaluable resource for your garden. The process of making it starts with tiny organisms that break down organic material into nutrients, air and water in a healthy environment where they can work their magic! You may have to add some extra nitrogen if you are using fresh manure or agricultural waste as sources but don’t worry – just know how much is too much so no disasters happen at home.
You need to chop or shred your compostables into smaller pieces to speed up the decomposition process. The smaller the better!
3. Beneficial Microorganisms
Bacteria are the most important component of any compost pile. They process plant tissue and break it down into humus, which then attracts fungi and protozoans as well as arthropods like centipedes, beetles, millipedes and worms that help with finishing touches to complete this natural cycle.
Composting is all about providing the right environment for beneficial microorganisms to thrive. These microorganisms break down the organic matter into nutrients that can be used by plants.
4. Smaller is Better
As mentioned above, smaller pieces of organic matter will decompose faster than larger pieces. This is because the surface area to volume ratio is greater, which means more microorganisms can access the organic matter.
5. Size of The Pile
The size of your compost pile should be a minimum of 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet. This is the optimal size for proper aeration and moisture retention. Larger piles can work but they may limit the airflow that is needed to keep the compost pile from overheating.
6. Moisture and Aeration
Your compost pile should be moist, but not too wet. The ideal moisture content is about 60%. If your compost pile is too dry, the microorganisms will not be able to thrive. If it’s too wet, the compost will start to smell. Use a pitchfork to turn the pile to help with aeration and breaking down the components into compost.
7. Temperature and Time
The ideal temperature for composting is between 140 degrees Fahrenheit and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The microorganisms that do the decomposing thrive in this temperature range. If your compost pile does not get hot enough, the decomposition process will be slow. If it gets too hot, the microorganisms will die off. Keeping the carbon to nitrogen mixture at good levels will help you create compost faster.
Compost is very important for healthy plants , trees, shrubs and your lawn.
- Compost has nutrients, but it is not a complete fertilizer.
- Compost provides nutrients in the soil until plants need to use them.
- It loosens and aerates clay soils
- Retains water in sandy soils.
Suggestions For Using Your Compost:
- As a soil amendment, mix 2 to 5 inches of compost into gardens each year before planting.
- As a potting mixture, add one part compost to two parts potting soil.
- Make your own potting mixture by using equal parts of compost and sand or perlite.
- As a mulch, prodcast 2 to 4 inches of compost around annual flowers and vegetables, and up to 5 inches around your trees and shrubs.
- As a top dressing, mix finely sifted compost with sand and sprinkle evenly over lawns.
Composting is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. By following these simple tips, you can make your own compost at home and have healthy plants.