They say nothing in life is free. But making your own compost comes close. And this nearly-free stuff gives you numerous benefits. It provides a simple and inexpensive way to help your vegetable or flower gardens thrive. In addition, it is an eco-friendly way to dispose of your yard debris and kitchen waste that might otherwise wind up in our already overstuffed landfills.
Composting is a practical, simple, and easy way to improve the natural biology of your soil. It is essential for growing beautiful flowers and tasty organic vegetables. Your garden will benefit tremendously from the addition of these readily available amendments (plant and animal matter) rich in nutrients, broken down and available to the plants’ roots. Compost improves the soil’s ability to retain water while adding many beneficial micronutrients.
You can buy bags of compost at your local hardware store or big-box retailer or order larger quantities to be trucked in. But why would you, when making compost at home is easy, fun, and free?
DripWorks is happy to share with you some simple tips on how to make compost. Once you understand the simple procedures for how to make your own, you will wonder why you did not learn how to make a compost pile a long time ago.
Where and What to Compost
A small, level and partially shaded area of your backyard is an ideal spot for a Jora compost bin or covered pile. If you locate it close enough to your kitchen, going to the composter will be easy, helping to ensure that you and family members make regular trips outside to nourish this beneficent bin.
To make composting easy at the source, you’ll want to have a plastic bucket or stainless steel compost pail located under your sink or on the kitchen counter for storing daily food scraps from your cooking. Food leftovers such as veggies, grains, and pasta as well as fruit, eggshells, bread, and especially coffee grounds should be added.
Avoid meat scraps, meat bones, cooking oil and milk products. They can spoil if unrefrigerated in the compost bucket in your kitchen, giving off offensive odors. In addition, these meat and animal products might attract rodents and larger animals to your compost bin or pile outside. That is something you want to avoid in the composting process.
To Buy or Build?
If your goal is to have a productive garden with vibrant soil, then building compost bins, making compost piles or purchasing a rotating composter to turn the compost regularly is the best plan. Bear in mind that while the smallest size is 33 gallons, you can also purchase a 70-gallon or 106-gallon compost tumbler if that suits your space better. Lastly, building a compost bin requires having a good spot in your yard and the right tools.
A quick way to start building a compost bin is by driving four steel T-posts into the ground to form a 4′ x 4′ square. Next, you will need 20 feet of four-foot tall one-inch chicken wire to wrap around the T-posts. The chicken wire will keep the compost in and the rodents out.
Decide where you want the front of the bin to be so when you want to turn the pile or empty it, you can open it up and shovel out the compost. Attach the wire around one of the posts at the front of the bin and run the wire around the square bin. When you get back to the first post, wrap the leading edge of the chicken wire around a five-foot broom stick or thin metal rod. This will become the “door” handle for when you need access to the compost to turn it or to to remove finished compost and spread it on your garden.
Good air circulation will help speed the composting process. Put a thick layer of hay or leaves at the bottom of the compost pile for air circulation.
How long does it take to make compost? Some special methods can take as few as several weeks, but most traditional types of composting will require three to 12 months for finished compost.
Air and moisture are very important for the breakdown of the compost pile. To add air, turn the pile every three or four weeks. Add some straw, old brown leaves, twigs, hedge clippings or mowed grass on top. Spray a little water on the pile while you are at it. Be careful not to overwater. This will cause the composting process to slow down or even stop.
Many backyard gardeners don’t know about the presence of beneficial mycorrhizal bacteria in all soil. Although we all are accustomed to fearing the bacteria that can cause human diseases, not all bacteria are bad. In fact, some are highly beneficial.
When it comes to gardening, the more beneficial bacteria, the better. This type of good bacteria attaches to the roots of plants and enables them to soak up copious amounts of nutrients in the soil. Adding these powerful microbial bacteria to your compost pile when you turn the pile will supercharge the compost. Always cover the pile with a tarp or a piece of plywood to keep the rain and sun out.
Working with Worms
Worm composting or vermiculture is another keyway to speed up the breakdown of compost materials. Red wiggler worms are the most popular. You can purchase them by the pound online.
If you add fresh plant matter and kitchen scraps regularly, the worms will multiply and expel worm castings. These will become a readily available source of nutrients for your garden. A worm’s appetite is insatiable, so be generous with your little friends.
These wonderfully wiggly wrigglers will multiply rapidly and work overtime if they have a dark, moist, and aerated environment they can call home. A compost pile with fresh ingredients makes a perfect worm condo.
If you are a home brewer of coffee, you are in luck. Worms especially favor coffee grounds.
If you live in an apartment or condo, worm bin kits are available for composting in a contained, odor-free manner inside your home during the cold winter months. They can even be expanded with extra worm trays to meet growing needs. Add a shovel-full of these worms to your compost pile every year as a compost pile starter.
The Bokashi Composting System is another practical, simple and easy way to compost indoors. Some even consider it the future of composting. It is an especially good technique for the homeowner who is a backyard gardener but does not want a compost pile outdoors for fear of attracting rodents or possibly creating offensive odors or just unsightliness.
Bokashi is the most efficient and greenest method of composting and produces no greenhouse gas. This method comes with a five-gallon bucket and lid. Simply place your kitchen scraps in it each day. Then sprinkle the Bokashi Bio Blend enzyme powder on top.
The microbes in this enzyme mix work quickly to digest the scraps and turn it into a finished product. Then all you must do is dig a hole in your garden and empty the compost there. Cover it and see the plants around it flourish.
If you do not already do your own composting, you are missing out on creating an extremely rich soil amendment that comes directly from your property and the food waste you create. These practical and easy ways of improving the vitality of your soil will benefit the environment while helping you grow beautiful flowers and a bountiful vegetable garden.