At this time of the year, we find that our gardens occupy our thoughts more than ever. Planning, plowing, and planting are exciting rites of passage to celebrate spring and mark the coming summer. But maybe the most satisfying part of planting a garden is using your own compost to nourish it. Whether you are reading this because you are interested in learning what compost is, or you just want to make sure you are doing it properly, we are happy to have you here!
Now, let's get to the good stuff...
What is compost?
Compost is decaying organic matter that makes excellent plant fertilizer. Essentially, it is the Earth's waste - things like leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, grass, and so much more. Compost is made up of things that were once alive, but have died and are now breaking down.
Why and how is it made?
The Earth makes compost all the time! Every time a leaf falls to the ground, a twig snaps off a branch, etc. All natural waste will break down into compost and nourish the next generation of growth. People make compost for various reasons; most people use it as a natural garden fertilizer. Since it doesn't contain manmade chemicals, but is rich in nutrients that plants require to grow, it makes fantastic food for Organic gardens. Other people may make compost to avoid filling up landfills. Fun fact: At least 1/4, sometimes as much as half, of the average American's trash contents could actually be composted.
What can I compost?
You can compost anything that was once alive, however, it is best to leave certain things out. Some things like meat, dairy, and cooked food, will attract pests. Human, dog, and cat feces can contain parasites, so don't put these in your compost. Also, anything with chemicals should be avoided. There are two types of compostables, "greens" and "browns". Greens consist of nitrogen-rich matter that breaks down quickly and helps facilitate the decomposition of browns. Browns are made up of carbon-rich matter that takes longer to break down, but provides substance to the compost. Try to keep your greens and browns roughly even so your finished compost is healthy and substantial! Here are some examples of each category:
Once you know what to put into your compost pile, it's time to build or buy one! There are lots of different ways you could construct yours. Compost tumblers are an excellent option since they allow you to easily rotate your compost, helping it reach higher temperatures so it can break down faster. If you're in no rush, your compost pile could be as simple as lashing together several wooden pallets and throwing compost in over the top.
One important thing to remember, you want slats or holes in your bin so air can get in and help the process, and you will need to move around your compost every so often to promote decomposition. When is your compost done? When it looks like dirt, smells fresh and earthy, and doesn't heat up anymore when you mix it. This could be anywhere between six weeks or a year depending on your bin, how often you turn it, and your ratio of matter. If your compost looks too dry, add water, and if it looks to wet, add more dry matter! Simple as that!
Do you compost? We'd love to hear your process! What kind of structure do you keep your compost in and how does it work for you? And as always, if you have any questions don't be afraid to ask!