Plants love compost. It is the boost of nutrients for your garden. Instead of throwing your food scraps to the trash bin, you can turn them to compost. It is a few-week process but the result will save you money on fertilizers for your garden.
Composting is the process of collecting organic waste and storing it under conditions designed to help it break down naturally. It is a process to turn organic waste such as food scraps and yard trimmings into natural fertilizer.
Making your own fertilizers from composting might sound like a daunting task. In fact, it is simpler than you might have thought. Composting is the process of storing a heap of wetted organic wastes like food scraps, yard trimming or leaves and waiting for the materials to decompose into humus after a few weeks, depending on the weather condition.
All composting requires three basic ingredients:
Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.
There are as many different ways to make compost as there are people who do it. The following guidelines will get you started, but soon your own experience will help you tailor a method that best fits your needs.
Build or purchase a compost bin. Enclosed compost piles keep out pets, hold heat and moisture in, have a neat appearance and reduce odor.
You can create your own compost bin out of wire, wood, pallets, concrete blocks, even garbage cans with drainage holes drilled in them. In urban areas, rodent-resistant compost bins - having a secure cover and floor and openings no wider than one-half inch - must be used.
Set up the bin in a convenient, shady area with good drainage. A pile that is about three feet square and three feet high will help maintain the heat generated by the composting organisms throughout the winter. Although a smaller pile may not retain heat, it will compost.
Start the pile with a layer of coarse material such as corn stalks to build in air passages. Add alternating layers of "brown" and "green" materials with a shovelful of soil on top of each layer. Be sure to bury food scraps in the center of the pile.
Add water as you build the pile if the materials are dry.
As time goes on, keep oxygen available to the compost critters by fluffing the pile with a hoe or compost turning tool each time you add material. A complete turning of the pile - so the top becomes the bottom - in spring and fall should result in finished compost within a few months, depending on the weather condition as well as the materials you put in the compost pile. More frequent turning will shorten the composting time.
When the composted materials look like rich, brown soil, it is ready to use. Apply one-half to three inches of finished compost and mix it in with the top four inches of soil about one month before planting. Compost can be applied as a top dressing in the garden throughout the summer. To make potting soil, mix equal parts compost, sand and loam. You can sort out the large pieces of compost particles by using a fine rake. These large particles can go back to the compost pile for further decomposing.
With these principles in mind, you can convert your organic wastes into resources by turning your spoils to soil.
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