Are You Composting Yet?

If you have a home garden and you’re not composting, you’re really missing the boat

If you want an easy way to get rid of lawn clippings and vegetable scraps while saving money on lawn and garden care, then you’ve got to try composting.

Many people seem to think that making compost is difficult, or the exclusive province of hippies and conservationists. Wrong! Just about anyone can compost, and it’s about as tough as putting out the garbage. In this article, I’ll tell you exactly how to do it.

Composting Basics

The recipe for compost is simple: you mix organic materials together in a pile or bin, wet it down a bit, and let it decompose. If you stir it up a little now and again so that air and moisture can get to all the components, it’ll eventually rot down into a rich, dark-colored humus that’s fantastically rich in nutrients.

You can use this compost as mulch around individual plants, or you can till it into the soil as an amendment. The high nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content (N-P-K, in gardening speak) will make your plants very happy, since those are their favorite nutrients.

Brown and Green

In addition to water and air, a viable compost mix needs to contain both “green” and “brown” organic components. Green components are those with a high nitrogen content: lawn clippings, fruit rinds, vegetable peelings, etc. Carbon-rich brown components include dried leaves, newsprint, and shredded cardboard.

Needless to say, anything you toss into your compost should be broken down as finely as possible. This makes the decomposition process a lot easier. It’ll work even better if you layer the materials by type: that is, brown/green, brown/green.

Once the layers have been in place for a while, use a pitchfork or a special compost-turning tool to mix the components. Do this about once a week, and add moisture as necessary. If you have a spinning compost barrel (they’re increasingly popular, and work very well), give it a spin every couple of days.

If the compost gets smelly, add some brown. If it doesn’t heat up properly (and it needs to, to kill pathogens), then add a little more green. It’s a good idea to add crushed eggshells, too; plants need their calcium.

Never, Never, Never

While universal composters do exist and can handle just about anything organic, there are certain things you shouldn’t put into compost. Seed pods, diseased plant material, and sticks are no-no’s. So are dairy products, bones, and meat.

It’s possible to process pet waste in a composter (let’s be blunt here: we’re talking poo), but it’s difficult, messy, smelly, and most experts recommend against it. Stick to the vegetable matter when you’re composting, and I guarantee you’ll be a lot happier!