Hardly anything feeds garden plants better than rich, organic compost. So why not make your own! It’s easier than most people think and will save you the high cost of purchasing it from the garden store.
A quick list of starting materials…
- Grass clippings, plants, leaves and branches from the yard. Do not compost any plants infected with disease. Also note that very thick, highly glossy leaves (like those from Rhododendrons) take much longer to compost.
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Egg and nut shells
- Straw or hay
It is best to stay away from trying to compost meats, fish and dairy as they will smell and can attract undesirable pests.
Shredding, grinding or chopping your material before adding to the composting pile will quicken the process. If your pile does not contain about 1/3 grass clippings you may want to add a nitrogen based fertilizer to your mix to speed up the process. Blood meal and/or manure are also good nitrogen-rich amendments.
If at all possible, pick a well protected spot for your pile that is out of direct sunlight. Ultimately your developing compost will need to be slightly moist at all times to properly decay. Too much water, or too little will stop the process. A light watering from time to time if in a sunny spot or drier climate may be necessary.
The compaction of all these organic materials when they are piled on one another will generate some heat. When the center of your composting pile cools, it signals the need for turning it over and mixing. A simple pitchfork works best for this practice as it shreds materials while you mix. Generally, a pile should be mixed anywhere from every 3 days to bi-weekly. The more it’s churned the faster the process will go! So make sure your composting pile is in an accessible spot. The compost enclosure should be well ventilated whether it is handmade or store bought.
Which brings us to your enclosure! The easiest thing might be to invest in a store bought compost bin or tumbler. These are specially designed to hold your materials while providing adequate air circulation. The tumblers are generally constructed off of the ground on a swivel – which makes turning your mix as effortless as possible! However, many people prefer to build their own enclosure. Wooden pallets make great enclosure walls and are an economical option. Be sure to top it off with a water proof tarp to keep out excess moisture.
Remember, when it comes to getting started with composting – keep it simple. As you get the hang of it, you will be able to add more materials and create more compost. Before you know it, you’ll have less waste, healthier gardens and hopefully, more change in your pocket!