Organic gardening means no chemical fertilizers, so how can you be sure your plants are getting the nutrients they need? Composting is a great way to get the most out of your fruits and veggies by using organic food scraps to help your garden and the environment.
There are two basic ways to go about composting, and which one you use depends on your gardening needs. Passive composting is piling organic materials like kitchen scraps, leaves and grass clippings and allowing them to decompose naturally over time with no intervention. Your pile could take over a year to fully break down, but it requires almost no effort or extra work. If you don’t want to wait, you could take a managed composting approach, where you actively work to speed up decomposition. Chopping up larger materials, turning the pile, and adding nitrogen-rich materials like grass and kitchen waste will help your compost break down faster.
With either method, it’s important to make sure your compost pile has the right balance of moisture and air circulation (a good rule of thumb is for your pile to be as moist as a wrung-out sponge). To promote air circulation, you could add tree branches or ventilation tubes, mix in coarse materials, or turn the pile by hand. Temperature is important as well: buy a compost thermometer to make sure your pile stays in the optimal range of about 100-130˚ F.
As for what you put into your compost, almost all organic material is fair game. You’ll need a balance of nitrogen (“green” materials) and carbon (“brown” materials) for a healthy compost pile. Kitchen waste like egg shells, coffee grounds, and produce scraps are all excellent sources of nitrogen for your compost pile, as are other fresh materials like grass and garden clippings. For carbon, add dried leaves (ground or shredded will decompose faster), wood chips or straw.
The benefits of composting are endless. In addition to vastly improving soil quality, it’s inexpensive, very easy to make, and allows you to reuse organic materials that would otherwise be thrown away. If you’re a home gardener and have space in your yard for a compost pile, it’s definitely worth the small amount of effort it takes to start one!
For more information, visit CompostGuide.com.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you use homemade organic compost in your garden? If so, do you have any tips or tricks for speeding up the process?