Compost is a mixture of green (Nitrogen- grass cuttings, vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, eggshells, hair) and brown (Carbon- leaves, non-glossy newspaper, straw, dead plans) ingredients, air, and water. Most importantly, compost is a free, natural, and environmentally friendly mixture anyone can make at home. Compost acts as a natural fertilizer and can improve plant hardiness and moisture retention. Using air, water, and food the compost will develop and shape a garden. Microscopic organisms break down the layers of the mix if they are evenly dispersed. Later, fungi and bacteria use oxygen, so turning over the mix about every four days lets air in and keeps the organisms working. Additionally, healthy compost is typically evenly moist. Keep this in mind when initially mixing ingredients. Finally, in order to keep the compost going, feed the critters working in the soil by progressively adding more to the compost as time passes.
- Grass clippings
- Green leaves
- Coffee grounds
- Egg shells
- Vegetable and fruit kitchen waste
- Herbivore waste
- Untreated wood shavings
- Fallen dry leaves or pine needles, straw
- Shredded newspaper
Ingredients to Avoid:
- Fats, oils, bones, meats
- Dog or cat waste
- Sticks or woody stems
- Glossy magazine paper
- Charcoal briquette ashes
- Treated wood and ashes
- Corn cobs, avocado pits, etc. (They will decompose slower than the rest of the ingredients.)
Types of Composters:
- Worm Bin-for small spaces, can be adapted for larger gardens
- Static Pile-no turning involved, takes 6 + months to create compost
- Ring of Wire- lightweight, medium effort, uses a hardware cloth or welded wire to border ingredients and can be removed for turning
- Rolling Composter- require a tumble every three days, take little space, conceal compost in container
- Triple Bin Compost-for shared garden, semi-permanent bins, separates bins into stages with a replacing system, can be turned at any pace
- Commercial Bin- compact and clean, sold in most urban areas, rotate when pile matures
How to Mix Compost:
- With equal depth, layer the ingredients in the order: brown, green, brown, green. Continuously add in batches until the bin is full.
- Pick up the compost with a shovel or garden fork and re-pile it. Turn the mix so the interior is on the exterior and vice versa. This speeds up decomposition and lets air in to quicken the process. As the bacteria and fungi are decomposing, the center will naturally heat up.
- Leave the compost for about four days. Afterwards, turn the pile again and wait for about four days again. Be careful to not turn it too often or of neglecting the pile. Ensure the pile is never dry and never too wet.
- After repeating this process every few days, a compost mix should be ready in about three and half weeks. It should look dark and most of the pieces should have broken down.
- Compost anywhere in the garden and start a new batch.
Compost in the Garden
Gather ingredients and keep in mind the appropriate ratio of green to brown is 1:3. Place the mixture into soil before planting the garden. It should be spread about ½ in to 2 in deep. Compost works the best when it is new, soil life weakens over time and nutrients begin to diminish with rain. As plants begin to grow, take initiative to place compost on the side or top to correct nutrient deficiencies in the growth process. Make sure to not place compost on stems, but between plants, ensuring the microscopic organisms reach the soil.
Moreover, some plants like squash, tomatoes, and broccoli use more nitrogen. If the garden contains these plants, a bit of compost manure can address the high-nitrogen needs. Whether planting a large garden or simple potting plants, compost can always be incorporated. Finished compost can also be utilized in potting mix for better drainage. Most importantly, once the initial compost mix is added, keep an eye on the garden and administer it as needed.
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