Your eco-friendly house is filled with natural cleaners and your clothes are made from organic cotton and hemp. Your make your own lip balm from natural ingredients. So far, so good! How’s your compost pile doing? Are you getting some great compost for next season’s organic garden? What? No compost pile? Here’s information to get you started making your very own, lusciously rich compost.
What is composting?
Composting is the art and science of transforming organic matter (plant material) into a wonderful soil enhancement that will fertilize your soil, help it retain water better, make the texture much more agreeable to growing plants (it breaks up clay soil and gives sandy soil some substance), and provide you with a wonderful vehicle for keeping your potato peels out of the landfill. Composting takes organic material and through decomposition with the help of worms and insects, and bacteria and fungi, turns it into compost. It’s the original form of recycling, and nature has been doing it forever.
Why bother with composting?
Here’s why: About 30% of what ends up in landfills is organic material that could be composted. This includes yard waste such as grass clippings and fallen leaves, and food scraps. Besides taking up space in landfills, yard waste that is dumped in landfills breaks down very slowly due to lack of oxygen, and it produces methane gas and acidic leachate in the process – both are environmental toxins.
How should I start?
It’s pretty easy to start a compost pile. Here’s what you need to do:
Supplies: You need a garden fork (sometimes called a spading fork), grass clippings or other “green material”, dry leaves or some kind of dry organic material, a shovel and a hose. That’s it!
Now, pick a good spot for you new compost pile. Out of sight is good, but not terribly far from the garden.
Next, you need a bin. You don’t need a fancy bin – you can fashion a wire corral or something simple like that. The size should be about 3 or 4 feet square. You can buy or build three bin systems that make it easy to have a starter pile, an in process pile and a finished pile. Bins can be built from recycled wood and should be open on one side so you can add material and turn piles with ease. If you get lots of rain, you can also use plywood to cover the bin(s) to keep them from getting too wet (some moisture is good, too much is bad).
Now you need your ingredients. Green ingredients are full of nitrogen, and brown ingredients are full of carbon. You need both for a good start. Try to make the ratio 1 part green to 2 parts brown. DO NOT add meats, oil, animal waste, diseased plants, plants that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides, or weeds that have gone to seed.
Try to make the initial size of your pile about 3 cubic feet. Add a shovelful of finished compost or rich garden soil to get the pile started on its composting process. You can also use a compost inoculant to get it going.
Check your compost pile’s moisture level once a week or so. It should be damp like a wrung out dishcloth or sponge. If you find that it is too dry, just add a bit of water with the hose. If too damp, add some more brown ingredients.
Turn the pile once a week – this helps with airflow and decomposition.
There you go! Compost for your garden. It’s quick and easy and good for the Earth.