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Do It Yourself: Gardening 101: Composting


Let’s start by explaining what compost is. It is a mix of organic matter that is decaying into material for your plant to consume. Tiny bacteria and other organisms consume the waste, and produce a naturally occurring nutrient rich fertilizer. The nutrients that chemical fertilizers artificially add can be found in compost- with the added benefit of organisms that can heal your soil and keep your plants healthy. Most of the waste made in your everyday life can be used to make a balanced compost. You start by dividing the two necessary types of waste- dry and wet. Dry waste is comprised of things like dried leaves, pine cones, and pine needles. Wet waste is comprised of fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds, and vegetable remnants. You should mix the substances together in a bin at a ratio of 2 dry portions to 1 wet portion. The finer you dice up your composting materials, the easier it is for your compost to start forming. It is possible to simply add organic material to a bin and let it build from there, but it is a longer process. To start your compost, you should not layer your materials thickly, one at a time; but mix them thoroughly. The different materials converging is what will create your compost in the most time efficient manner possible.

Materials of Compost:

It’s important to understand the different materials that go into composting. Dry elements that are added to the compost heap will help keep things from becoming too wet for the micro-organisms to thrive. Wet elements help provide some of the nutrients that dry don’t have- as well as giving your compost heap much needed moisture. It is important that the heap be kept moist, but not wet, so that both the dry and wet elements can work in their habitat efficiently. It’s also important to know what not to add to compost piles. The first thing to never add is meat. Or any animal product for that matter. Eggshells are the one exception to the rule, and only because they are made of calcium, a useful nutrient for plants. Other products not to add are: Human or pet feces(farm animal manure is fine), bread products, cooking oils, cooked foods, salty foods, dyed or colored paper, rice, and sawdust. These products can all affect your compost negatively, and should be completely avoided.

Speedy Compost production:

To get a good compost as soon as possible, you will also need to make sure you turn your compost about once a week. The process in which organisms turn your waste into compost require oxygen, and the only way to get that oxygen is by flipping some of the compost heap, so new portions can get air at the surface level. You can do it once a week, or once a month; but it is important to turn it when you can. If you don’t, the organisms decomposing the soil will die and create a rotting mess that will stink up your compost bin. That’s right, properly composting material will not stink. It will have a rich, earthy aroma.

Differences in Compost:

Let’s take a moment to talk about the two main types of compost piles- hot and cold. Hot compost piles will be turned regularly, be added to frequently, and will produce more quickly. They heat up to over 140 degrees Fahrenheit naturally, which helps the pile purge bad bacteria and certain viruses from the pile, such as ecoli. Cold compost piles are easier to leave alone, and you can just add your ingredients as you go. Other things that need to be noted are the different materials you can add to hot piles. Because hot piles can kill bacteria, they can also kill seedlings from weeds. Meaning you can add weeds to hot piles, while you can not add them to cold compost piles. If you add weeds to your cold composting pile, they will likely take root and grow in the nutrient rich waste.

The Tools of Composting:

compost bin

To start your composting journey, the first thing you will need is a good compost bin. It doesn’t necessarily need to have all the components of a regular bin. For instance: many people have compost bins with open bottoms, so naturally occurring earthworms can join the organisms forming in the compost. Another common compost bin is one on an easel-like configuration to make turning easier. All that is necessary for the compost bin is a covering, a place in the yard, and something to keep animals away. If your bin, or area, has all of these elements, you’re ready to begin. Next, you’ll need something to help with the turning process of your compost. If you have a bin with a built in turning tool, you’ll be fine. For the ones not so lucky, though, a simple pitchfork or compost aerator will do just fine. When turning a hot compost pile, always remember to turn the pile so the newest materials go towards the hot center of the pile, and the hot middle spreads towards the outer edges. In a cold pile, just make sure to flip as much as you can, and get as much material turned as possible.

And that’s everything you need to know about the process called composting. It’s an organic, green choice, and can turn your garbage into gold. Of course, if you don’t have time to make your compost, or would like to jump start your composting process, you can add some premixed organic compost to your garden. We here at PlumberSurplus.com have every little bit you need.

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