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A Guide to Composting: What You Need to Know

Everything You Need To Know About Composting

By using just your lawn clipping, fallen leaves, and kitchen scraps, you can make dark, healthy, humus-rich compost that you can add to your garden and house plants.

You can reap tremendous benefits from adding just a bit of compost to your soil. It improves the structure of your soil, aerates it, and retains water more efficiently. It also has essential micronutrients and bacteria that make your garden healthier and stronger.

Many gardeners call compost “gardeners gold” and “black gold”. In short, there is nothing better for your soil than compost. So, let’s take a look at what you need to know to make some of the best compost in one of those popular compost bins.

  1. Select a Compost Bin

There are many different compost bins to choose from to hold your composting materials. Homemade bins are generally square and are often made from wood. Commercially produced bins are typically cone or square shaped and made from plastic. There are also rotating tumbler-style bins. Each type of compost bin has its benefits and disadvantages, but they can all be used to make compost.

  1. Choose a Place for Your Compost Bin

Select a spot that is well drained, level, and easy to access all year round. Put your compost bin on bare soil instead of paving or concrete so worms and other healthy organisms can get into the pile. It is also a great idea to remove plants and grass that may be where you want to place your bin and turn the soil to about 8 inches deep.

  1. Add Quality Composting Materials

In general, composting materials can be split into two categories: green materials which include vegetable trimmings, grass clippings, green plant cuttings, and fresh manure; and brown materials like hay, leaves, paper, and straw. These elements are highly beneficial to your compost pile.

  1. What You Must NOT Add to Your Compost

There are a few ingredients you should never allow into your compost pile.

Items like dairy products and vegetable fat will slow the composting process down by blocking the oxygen from the helpful organisms, preventing them from doing their job. Adding these items doesn’t stop your compost from being usable; it just means the process will take longer.

Some other items are dangerous to add to your compost pile because of disease or poisoning. Pet and human feces,  pressure or chemically treated sawdust or wood, and animal or meat fats are all big no-no’s for your compost pile and should never be added.

  1. Making Awesome Compost

Making excellent compost is similar to creating a massive layer cake… sort of.

You start with a 4-inch layer of twigs, brush, straw, or hay at the bottom of the compost bin. Next, add 4 inches of brown material and then a thin layer of good garden soil or finished compost. That is the first layer of the cake.

Add a 4-inch layer of green material and then top it with a thin layer of soil or compost. Mist each layer with a garden hose to moisten it. Continue adding the materials to the pile while alternating layers until the compost bin is full.

Leave the bin for 14 days, and then turn all of the compost. Follow this by turning the pile regularly – the more you turn it, the faster the composting process will be complete.

  1. How to Use Your Compost

It takes up to 12 months for the composting process to be complete. This time is influenced by the methods and materials you use. Once your compost in crumbly, dark, almost completely broken down and has an earthy smell, it is ready to use.

Your compost can now be used for fertilizer, vegetable and flower beds, house plants, lawn dressing, planting areas, compost tea, and to use around established trees.

Pat yourself on the back – you are giving healthy nutrients back to the soil. Your flowers, plants, trees, and vegetables will now grow healthier and stronger thanks to your compost. Remember, composting requires patience, but the result is so worth it. You can stop using synthetic soil amenders and fertilizers, which hurt the environment and cost a lot of money. Compost also restores nutrients, balances the texture of your soil, and keeps essential, reusable organic materials out of landfills and where they belong – back in the earth.