Get Started With Composting

What is Compost?

Compost is a very important element to the backyard garden. Gardeners use compost as a source of mulch, to amend soil and as an ingredient of potting soil. An organic garden can really reap the benefits of composting. Composting is a completely natural process. Compost is what results from the break-down, or decomposition, of organic matter when that decomposition takes place in a controlled environment. The heat produced during this decomposition sanitizes the organic matter, and it becomes stable enough to aid in plant growth. The reason decomposition takes place is due to Aerobic (oxygen-requiring) microorganisms. In order for microbes to grow and multiply, they require moisture, food and oxygen. If the microbes are given the proper requirements, decomposition will happen quickly. As the microbes work to decompose the organic material, they generate heat, moisture and carbon dioxide. The heat produced by the microbes will speed the decomposition process and sanitize the compost. The final product after this process is complete is a nutrient rich compost that can improve the chemical, biological and physical characteristics of soil. A 1 to 3 inch layer of compost, placed around plants, will conserve moisture, prevent erosion and cut down on weed growth. A 3 to 4 inch layer of compost added on top of garden soil, and worked through with a garden rake or rototiller, is beneficial for new planting areas. To make potting mix, sift one part potting soil through a 1/4 inch screen and add mix with two parts of commercial potting soil. By using compost in conjunction with fertilizers a gardener will give plants a complete source of nutrients.

Compost is decayed organic matter that is odorless and rich in nutrients.  In your home, organic materials including kitchen scraps, leaves or grass clippings can be converted into compost. Aerobic (oxygen-requiring) microorganisms are responsible for the decomposition of these organic materials. The microbes need food, moisture and oxygen to break down the organic material. The microbes generate heat which, in turn, removes harmful bacteria from the organic matter. At the end of the decomposition process, which can depend on a variety of factors including temperature and oxygen levels, the newly formed compost will not bear any resemblance to the original organic materials.  The compost can now be taken and used in the garden.  Compost plays a very important role in the garden. It contains plant nutrients and enhances the quality of soil or other growing medium. Organic gardens utilize compost for a source of mulch, a soil amendment, or supplement with potting mix. Although compost add nutrients to the soil, it is not a fertilizer, which is ideal for organic gardens. A 1 to 3 inch layer of compost placed around plants will control weeds, conserve water and prevent erosion. It can also be used to amend soil in a new garden or pot. To amend soil, place a 2 to 3 inch layer of compost on top of the planting area. Use a garden rake or rototiller to mix compost with the top six inches of soil. To use compost as an ingredient in potting mix, silt compost through a 1/4-inch screen to remove large pieces.  Mix one part of sifted compost with two-parts of commercial potting soil. Use this to plant flowers or vegetables in pots.

Do you ask yourself what is composting and why should I bother making my own compost?

The reason people invest their time in composting can vary with each individual because there are many attractive benefits to composting. Two main benefits include:

Environmental benefits: By composting your organic materials, valuable nutrients and organic matter are effectively being recycled instead of being sent to the landfill where it will just sit for years and years. By composting your organic waste, you helped alleviate a portion of the solid waste problem! And it is a big problem with garbage mountains growing tall worldwide.  Every bit helps.

Compost benefits your garden and soil: Compost contains macro and micro nutrients that are critical to healthy plant growth and it releases these nutrients slowly over time. In sandy soils compost helps to retain water and nutrients and in hard clay soil it helps to loosens tightly bound particles so roots spread, water drains and air penetrates.

And here are the top 10 reasons to make your own compost:

  1. It’s earth-friendly: Food scraps and yard waste make up at least 20-30% of the waste stream in most communities. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills, where they take up precious space and release methane gas.
  2. Compost benefits your yard: Compost improves soil structure and texture, increases soils ability to hold both water and air, improves soil fertility, and stimulates healthy root development in plants.
  3. Composting saves money: Adding compost to your garden can reduce or eliminate the need to buy chemical fertilizers or compost. If you pay for the amount of trash and yard waste hauled, composting can also cut down on your trash removal costs.
  4. Composting is easy: You can start with yard waste like leaves and grass, then work your way towards composting your food scraps. Use a compost bin, a compost tumbler or why not a worm bin!. Or go advanced and get a bokashi composting bucket and ferment your kitchen waste including fish, meat, bones, and dairy!
  5. Composting is fun!: Really, it is a lot of fun and very rewarding to see your organic household trash transform into useful compost for your garden instead of sending it to our landfills to let future generations deal with it.
  6. Making your own compost is safe: When you make your own compost you know it’s safe for your plants and that it will help to grow healthy food for your family. There is always a risk of herbicide carryover in purchased compost.
  7. Compost feeds the soil: Compost returns important nutrients to the soil slowly. And compost also increases the soils ability to hold on to those nutrients.
  8. You have to water less:  Compost retains lots of water and increases your garden’s drought resistance.
  9. Compost promotes healthy roots: When mixed in with your garden soil, plants can produce deeper roots over a wider area for healthy and strong plant growth.
  10. Your neighbors and friends will think you are really cool: Well, maybe they won’t but we certainly will!

How do I develop my own Home Composting Program?

First, consider what equipment to buy. This will depend upon your lifestyle. Relax, composting is easy!

If you live in a house with a yard – start by looking where you will put your composting bin. How much space you can spare for the unit? This will help you decide on the size and type of composter. Consider putting it somewhat close to your house so that it does not become inconvenient to fill your composter.

Composters come in different sizes and models. We recommend models that can be rotated. This makes it easy to aerate your compost, which is critical for fast compost making AND it also reduces back strain caused from turning a compost pile with a pitch fork. If you are looking to “hide” the unit in your yard we can recommend the Compact ComposTumbler. It blends in perfectly with smaller bushes and shrubs and it is one of our best sellers.

Also, decide if you want a one or two chambered composter. The two chambered composters are slightly more expensive, but it allows you to use the compost in one chamber while you make compost in the second chamber. Or you can purchase 2 units if you have the space. You can always use the compost!

If you have a small yard, consider a compost bin or the smaller Back Porch tumbler.

If you live in an apartment or a townhome – Just because you don’t have a big yard does not mean that you cannot make perfect compost! Get a small rotating composter like the Back Porch tumbler or one of our smaller composting bins. They do not use that much space. If you don’t have any outdoor space a worm binworks great for indoor composting!

The next purchase is an inside “compost keeper”. This is a convenient container to store your food scraps and other small organic matter so you will only have to deposit the scraps to your composter once a week or when the keeper is full. Do yourself a favor and get one! It saves a lot of time and makes composting even easier. You can buy an attractive ceramic one or a simpler plastic one. Oh, and don’t worry about any smell — it has a carbon filter on the lid. Just remember that it should be emptied and rinsed out once a week.

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