If your garden is looking a little dry and tired, or you just need some soil to fill in the cracks between your plants, compost is the perfect solution. Compost helps add nutrients and organic matter to the soil, it gives plants essential minerals that they would otherwise not have access to, and it speeds up decomposition of organic matter so more minerals are absorbed by plants.
Compost starter can be added to help break down leaves, grass clippings and other yard trimmings faster. A healthy compost pile will generate heat that kills weed seeds and pests making them a perfect environment for vegetable gardeners who want insect free produce.
A compost pile is made up of three main components:
- core materials that break down fastest, like dead leaves and grass clippings. The more green materials you add the faster your compost will degrade. While a green kitchen waste bin can be used to make a green garden compost, the heat produced by a kitchen waste bin will not be strong enough to generate enough heat for an active compost pile.
Shelter Materials – materials that help hold together the core materials like straw, wood chips or sawdust. These materials provide insulation from the elements and help keep the heat in your compost, preventing it from freezing.
Aeration Materials – materials that allow air into your compost pile, such as shredded leaves, bark mulch or straw. Many time core materials alone will not break down if there is not enough oxygen coming in.
These are the basic components of a compost pile. The proportions of each component depend on the size and needs of your garden. If you have other organic waste or just have a lot of garden waste then you can add more core material to your pile. You can even add kitchen waste without creating an odour due to the high heat generated from the compost pile.
Getting started with a compost pile is very easy. All you have to do is pile your ingredients on top of one another (turning them over as you go) and add water to start the process. You will notice that it takes a few days for the green materials to turn brown before it is ready to be added to your garden. Once it has gone through this first stage, simply add more green materials as you harvest them or they break down in your pile.
Now if you want to get more creative with your composting (and who doesn’t?) you can take advantage of what nature has already provided: worms. Earthworm castings help create highly fertile and nutrient rich soil, which is perfect for your garden.
The art of composting requires a complete understanding of what is happening in the compost pile.
This understanding can only be achieved through study and experimentation. You need to observe the compost’s reaction to different ingredients, and how it will digest them as they are added. You need to find out how fast it will break down different organic materials, and how much heat it will produce.
These are all factors that affect whether or not a compost pile will work for your application. As the contents of your composter are changed over time, you’ll have to adapt the process accordingly by adding more food scraps or some shredded leaves on top of what is already in your pile.
The main ingredient of the compost pile is carbonaceous material. It will comprise a large fraction of the total volume and should be available at all times. The shovel load needed will depend on available materials, but will likely be around 2 cubic yards per cubic yard of core materials.
The density of a mix can vary greatly and is determined by the relative amounts and types of its ingredients. As a result, there is no simple way to calculate the weight and volume required for field production in terms of pounds or cubic yards.
A good rule of thumb for contents to use when planning a composting site is 1:1 or 2:1 ingredients to yard space ratio, (i.e., one cubic yard per 50 square feet).
How do you compost for beginners?
- To start out, you should buy a bin that can be used specifically for composting. The bin should be airy and have open spaces so that the air inside circulates. This will ensure that your compost does not become anaerobic and therefore rot instead of decompose.
- You will also need to create a mixture of various types of material to add to the pile such as wood chippings, leaves, grass clippings, food scraps and even egg shells if you wish to do so. The mixture needs to be in a 3:1 amount (three parts brown material to one part green), otherwise the process may take much longer than it should.
- Once the pile is finished, remove the pile from your bin and turn it over. This will allow for aeration. The pile should be turned at least every week, however a more frequent turn may be required to make sure that the pile is not too wet or too dry.
- You can begin adding new materials once the decomposition process has begun. You should try to add new materials with fast-decomposing ones so that everything gets broken down evenly, as well as if you are trying to speed up how quickly it breaks down. For example, adding crushed egg shells or paper will help with this and will allow them to break down very quickly.
- Adding time to the process will help your materials decompose faster. If you cover your pile, the new material will not break down as fast and you can expect to wait longer before it is ready.
- If you want to add some heat to help the process along, try using a hot water bottle or placing the bin in an oven overnight. The hot water bottle will create enough heat to speed up the growth of microorganisms in your pile, which will in turn speed up the decomposition process.
- Once your compost is ready, you can use it for mulching, thatching roofs, building gardens and garden beds etc., as well as for obtaining nutrients from it.
- You might decide after trying different methods or materials that composting may be too time consuming for you. You can skip the composting process when you do not have the time or patience.
How to make a compost bin:
There are many ways you can build your own compost bin and it will depend on how much money you want to spend, as well as what type of garden you have. With regards to size, there is a huge difference between 20-gallon drums and traditional bins. The 20-gallon drum is about 5 feet wide and 3 feet deep, allowing it to hold a greater volume of materials than a standard bin but with less depth. The cost for both types of containers will also vary depending on the type of material used for material specifically for making them – for example, wood might be cheaper than plastic.
A tip to consider when making a compost bin is the way you decide to use it and what you want it to be used for. Some people will build the soil into their garden beds and some people will only use their compost bins as a place to put dead plant material.
You should consider the size of your compost pile too, before you start building. This can be determined by using a measurement known as cubic feet per minute (CFM). To calculate this number, you will need to measure the length, width and depth of your pile first at different times throughout its decomposition process. You will then multiply these measurements by 25 to get a CFM number. A good rule of thumb is to use half a cubic foot per minute for the total amount of materials you want to compost.
What you put in your compost bin:
There are many different things that you can put into your compost bin and these include:
Coffee grounds and filters – Usually coffee grounds are given as a supplement to potting mixes which are used in the garden. The good news is that coffee filters can also be placed in a compost bin, allowing the ground coffee to break down completely, which may better improve its soil quality. Two cups of coffee grounds are required for every 4 inches of depth.
Fruit and vegetable scraps – Food scraps are a great thing to put in your compost because they are rich in nitrogen, which will help boost the growth of many plants. In addition, these particular food scraps also work quite well for your compost if their source is from fruits and vegetables, as long as you do not use any sort of chemicals on them.
Cotton Balls – Cotton balls work great for lighter materials that tend to float to the top of your compost bin. They can be used in order to keep a lid on top of your container so that it will be easier for you to maintain its moisture. Cotton balls can also be cut up into smaller squares if you prefer.
What should you not compost?
You should not put any of the following into your compost bin:
- Meat, egg, fish, scraps
- Dairy products
- Coal or charcoal ash
- Plants that were diseased
Can banana peels go in compost?
Yes, you can compost banana peels. There is no need to worry about adding banana peels to your compost bin, as they are a very effective addition to it. Banana peels are made up of starches, which means that they will break down during the composting process and will help with providing plants with natural nutrients.
What should you do if you’ve accidentally put something into your compost bin that shouldn’t be there?
If you put any undesirable materials into your compost bin, such as meat or egg shells, you have the option of removing them by hand as soon as you notice or letting them decompose on their own so that they can be used in another way later on.