Composting for the Home Gardener

Composting is an excellent way for home gardeners to nourish garden soil by recycling and reusing organic materials. It is a simple process that can be done in any size space, even in urban areas, to create compost that can provide a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. Composting is an excellent method to repurpose kitchen scraps and yard waste into valuable nutrients for your lawn and garden.

Select a spot to compost

Before you begin composting, select a location for the compost pile. You can purchase a compost bin or make one yourself. We recommend placing your compost pile in a bin with a tight lid and plenty of ventilation to keep the compost aerated and reduce unpleasant odors. Make sure you select a large enough bin for your needs made from a durable material to withstand the elements.

Collect Organic Materials

For a successful composting process, you will need two types of materials: green and brown.

Green materials are typically items like fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds.

Brown materials include leaves, branches, and twigs.

A good rule of thumb is to use equal parts of green and brown materials for a compost pile. When combined, these materials provide the perfect balance of nitrogen and carbon.

It is important to know what items should not be added to compost due to potential harm to the environment or other organisms. The following are items that you should not add to compost:

  • Dairy products.
  • Oils and fats.
  • Pet waste.
  • Diseased plants.
  • Treated wood.
  • Any synthetic materials.

Additionally, we do not recommend adding meat, fish or bones to compost, as these can attract pests and cause odors.

Compost Maintenance

There are two actions necessary for maintaining compost:

  1. Keep the compost pile aerated to ensure proper decomposition. You can do this by regularly turning the compost with a pitchfork or shovel, shaking the container, or turning your compost bin.
  2. Ensure the compost is moist but not too wet, as this can cause unpleasant odors.

About six weeks after starting, you'll have what gardeners call "black gold." You’re now ready to add it to your garden beds and around your plants. Mix it in with the soil or use it as a top dressing on the soil surface.

Be sure to continue these actions to maintain your compost over time and help your plants and garden thrive!

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