Friday, March 18, 2011


Composting is a wonderful way to naturally give your garden the fuel it needs to thrive.  Composting is also environmentally responsible, as it is using things that ordinarily would find their way into the landfills which are already full enough. It can also save you money on buying compost in the store, and by lessening the garbage that you need to haul off each week, if you also recycle your metals, papers, and plastics, adding composting to your routine can save you quite a bundle in what you are paying to the landfills (if you live in an area that charges for garbage pick up or drop off).

Just what is so great about composting anyway? Well, composting is great for many things; it is good for your garden and the environment. Compost is good for the soil in your garden as it gives your plants a slow, steady, nearly continuous stream of nutrients that they need while they are growing.  In addition to the reasons that we already mentioned that composting is good for the environment (less waste going to landfills) it also improves it due to creating less of a need for chemical fertilizers. And less chemicals is almost always a good thing.

Well, we’ve been convinced that composting is a good, no a GREAT thing. So how does one get started composting?

To make compost you need to bring together items that are mainly green and moist, such as grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps, etc. Also you will need to add in some brown ingredients like dead leaves, hay, wood shavings, saw dust, hay, and so forth. Make sure that your items stay moist and turn every few days to make sure oxygen is getting reintroduced to the pile. You can do this with a pitchfork or a compost aerator. However, if you are using a spinning compost container, the action of spinning it will aerate your compost for you. 

Now, you might want to reduce the size of your compost ingredients by chopping them up, or in the case of leaves you can use a lawn mower or mulcher to decrease their size. This will help your compost break down more quickly.

When you add your ingredients together you will want to layer them in 3 to 4 inch think layers (however if using a spinning container you can just chuck them all in there together). The ratio you will want to stay close to is between a 5:1 and 8:1 by volume of brown materials to green materials. However, if the ratio is off then there are ways to tell how to get back on track.

If after 24 hours your compost pile has not heated up you most likely need more green material. The best way to gauge whether or not your pile is getting warmer is by using a thermometer, or more particularly a compost thermometer. 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit is where you want the temperature of the middle of your compost heap to be. Now on the other end of things, if your compost smells like ammonia then you need some more brown materials. Once these are added and mixed into your compost then that smell should dissipate.

Your compost mixture should remain moist throughout the process (not sopping wet however). Between the moistness and the oxygen that the compost is getting from you aerating it your mixture will soon become compost. The more frequently you aerate your mixture the quicker your compost will be ready.

Now, once your compost is done there are several uses for it. You can add it to garden soil, container mixes, or use it as mulch. If there are still coarse pieces in the compost you may want to sift your compost through a “riddle” or garden sieve. Any large pieces that are left can be added to your ingredients for your next composting adventure.

Composting ingredients: (a few ingredient ideas to get you started)

Brown Ingredients:
Woody Prunings
Tea Bags
Corn Cobs
Saw Dust

Green Ingredients:
Grass Clippings
Fresh Manure
Coffee Grounds
Young Hedge Trimmings
Plant Cuttings

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