A Guide to Composting
Learn composting methods and how to use compost to grow healthy plants
Many people are interested in learning how to compost. Perhaps you are intimidated or confused about how to get started. This article will give you reasons to compost, a guide to composting, and ways to use compost in your garden and on your plants.
There are two primary reasons to compost:
1. To responsibly dispose of our organic material (food scraps, grass clippings, leaves, etc). Taking responsibility for your own organic waste positively impacts the environment in several ways: it keeps food scraps (organic material) out of the land fill where it creates harmful methane gas, and it saves the gas and pollution needed to run garbage trucks. Imagine how few garbage pick ups would be needed if no one put organic material in the trash can. Just imagine the gas savings keeping all those trucks off the road.
2. Compost is valuable! Adding compost to any plant will make it healthier. Compost is especially useful for vegetable or flower gardeners but it can also be used by anyone that want to make their house plants healthier or even their lawn grow thicker and greener.
The most important thing to remember when starting to think about composting is: Compost Happens! Composting is a natural process. It is going to happen. You are simply going to try to manage the process so that you get the most out of it by learning and using the composting methods below. Compost is organic material (stuff that used to be alive) decomposing or breaking down. Without human intervention, compost happens all over the place. One example is the leaves on a forest floor. Every fall many trees drop their leaves which slowly compost on the forest floor and nourish the tree.
Composting Methods - Different Ways to Compost
There are many different composting methods. I encourage you to try a couple and find the best fit for you and your family.
How to Build a Hot Compost Pile - layering carbon (ex. leaves) with Nitrogen (food scraps). A composting pile or compost heap is also called a hot pile because of the heat that it gives off while breaking down. Microorganisms breakdown the organic material. The hot compost pile or compost heap can be enclosed in a container, wire bin, or it can be a free standing composting pile.
Sheet Composting or Lasagna Composting - same composting method as pile composting except you spread the material out in an area that you plan to garden in... in the future. You have to wait for the sheet compost to decompose before you garden in the spot. If you have the time, this is a great way to build fertility in your future garden.
Vermicomposting (worm composting) - feeding food scraps (organic material) to a specific type of earthworm, red wigglers. Vermicompost (worm poop) is better for plants than other types of compost. Worms need some sort of container or bin to live in and moist shredded paper or leaves for bedding. Check out this article to see if worm composting is right for you. To learn more about Vermicomposting read Getting Started With Worm Composting
Bokashi Composting - Composting using a specific group of microorganisms to anaerobically (without oxygen) ferment organic material. Food scraps and microorganisms (in the form of wheat bran which can be purchased or made) are mixed in a bucket and the sealed for 2 or 3 weeks as it all breaks down. The compost is then buried in your garden or the ground for another 2 weeks as it finishes breaking down. This composting method is fast and can also handle meat or fish unlike other composting methods.
Pet Waste Composting - Can you compost dog poop? Yes, you can. Composting dog waste using a homemade mini septic system in your backyard. Once built, this is an easy, odor free (as long as you keep the lid on) way to keep dog poop out of the land fill.
Ways to use compost
Top dressing - Adding finished compost around the top of existing plants. This method works great for outdoor or indoor plants.
Mixing into seed starter medium - If you are getting ready to start some new seeds or fill a potted plant, make the mixture about one third compost and your plants will be healthier.
Adding during transplanting - If you are using transplants in your garden (plants that are already started in a small container) add a handful of compost to the hole before you put you transplant in. More details of this method here.
Compost tea - Making a tea for plants out of compost instead of tea leaves. The nutrients in the compost diffuse into the water. Watering plants with compost tea makes it easy for the plants to access the nutrients.
For more info on the different ways to use compost please read How to Use Compost
I encourage you to try out these composting methods and to share this guide to composting with friends so that they too can learn how to compost.
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