A simple guide that will show you how to make compost for your garden.
If you have gardened for any length of time then you more than likely have come across compost in one way or another. You may have even purchased and used some of this wonderful stuff in your plantings. But what if I told you that the same bags you lug out to your car on your weekend home depot trips can be made from the same garbage your throwing away at home, for FREE?
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It is true! Once you see this small miracle happen you will wonder why everyone doesn’t have one. Making your own compost will result in a healthier more abundant garden. It will save you money. If you have children, this is also a wonderful lesson to teach them as well. You are not only saving money but you are reducing the waste coming out of your household.
What is Compost?
But let’s not jump too far ahead here, I want to make sure to explain to those who are reading this that maybe don’t know what it is or why they need it for their gardens.
Compost is a soil amendment full of nutrients perfect for growing plants and veggies. In its basic form it is a naturally broken down mixture of nitrogen and carbon sources. Now that sounds a bit scientific and complicated so before I scare you away from this idea, let me explain.
Nitrogen comes from things like grass clippings, chicken manure, coffee grounds, food scraps (everything but meat and dairy products), weed clippings and plants at the end of their life you pull from the garden.
The list goes on and you can even google to get more ideas if you want an even bigger list then what I have mentioned here. But I have included a list of items at the end of this post that you can keep by the trash can to reference what is trash and what is compostable.
Now carbon on the other hand is your crispy fall leaf piles, cardboard (even things like cereal boxes which use soy ink so they just fine to use), news paper, shredded mail. Again, the list is equally large. It is also included at the bottom of this post so you can print and keep by your garbage for a quick reference.
When composting, you want to make sure that you add things that can be broken down so no plastic or glass should be thorn in. Think organic items. Especially because you are likely using these to grow food and you don’t want chemicals in the dirt you use to grow it.
There is a wide array of containers you can purchase for composting but being the Dave Ramsey meets minimalist style of thinking that I have these days, I ain’t about to waste buying the fancy stuff.
I use a typical rubber made trash can that I drilled several holes in at the bottom for air flow.
Directly on the bottom and around the bottom of the container. Whenever we have any compostable items, which we do almost daily; we take it out to the bin right outside my kitchen door and toss it in.
It took a little getting used too for both me and my daughter. But now her and I know, we don’t throw it away unless it’s plastic or isn’t compostable.
If you use my method for composting you will want to make sure to break down larger pieces. Things like cardboard from all those amazon purchases should broken down.
I make sure to tear those up into about 6 inch or so pieces to help the process. Kids actually find this part fun, so if you’re looking for little ways the kids in your house can help out. This is a good one.
Another method we are actually utilizing this year is creating a wood pallet compost. I literally have taken wood pallets and secured them with tposts from the hardware store to create a walled in area for the compost.
To keep the heat in, I have placed it in a sunny area. I will need to water and turn this pile about once a week in order for it to remain moist. You do not want your pile drying out. It you use this method instead of a container method, be sure to not throw tons of food scraps in this pile as that can create a food source for pests.
Getting Your Pile Started
Now that you have a container or the pallet method to store your compost. You will want to have equal amounts of nitrogen items and carbon items to make sure this is a balanced pile.
Think half of one and half of the other. It doesn’t have to be an exact measurement but if you see it’s mostly cardboard boxes, add some of those grass clippings in.
I also pour a bit of water inside from time to time because you want your pile to be as moist as a wrung out sponge. I even stir it around with a pitch fork or shovel maybe once a month to make sure it’s that way throughout.
What Happens Next
Now the same rules apply here as it does gardening because the last ingredient will be your patience. Composting takes anywhere from 3 months to over a year to break down.
It all depends on the size, what’s in the pile and how well you have balanced everything.
Your job is really just to wait. While leting those amazing micro organisms and worms do their jobs of breaking it all down for you. You will know its ready when you will a slightly sweet smelling, dark crumble like in the picture.
From here you can add this directly into your garden beds.