Composting is a very easy way to reduce trash and supply plants with nutrients for the future.
Adding compost to soil greatly improves the quality of the soil. With kitchen waste you can create humus, which is stable organic matter in the soil that contributes to nutrient and moisture retention.
When adding compost to the soil that you will be using for potted plants it is important to make sure that the compost is fully matured. The compost should not smell rotten, it should be a nice dark color, and the temperature of the compost should not be any warmer than 6-8°F warmer than the ground temp. If the compost does not meet these requirements, you risk burning the plants since the organic materials are still decomposing. If you are adding it to the soil in the garden it is not as important to have it fully developed but make sure that you mix the compost into the dirt. By mixing the dirt and compost you create a buffer that helps prevent burning the plants with raw organic material.
Use the completed compost as a soil additive
Starting a compost pile
To start compost there are several several methods but all of them start with a location. After a location has been chosen, read about the different methods for building compost and chose what is right for you.
Pile Method – This is the easiest it consists of taking your plant matter and starting a pile. It is recommended to lay down sticks and other materials to allow air and drainage. Then start alternating between dry and wet materials and keep piling them up. If you only have dry materials you can add some water or make sure to add grass clippings at the next possible chance.
Compost Trench – This is the same as the above method but is started by digging out a trench a few inches down and starting the pile. This exposes the compost directly to the soil so microbes and worms more readily aid in the decomposition of the pile.
Compost Bin – There are bins that are pre-build but it is easy to build your own. By adding four poles around the compost pile and connecting them by boards it will contain the pile. When adding the boards make sure to leave space between each row so air can get in and you can fluff it up with a pitch fork. The poles could also be connected by a wire mesh or the whole thing could be made from a wire fencing materials.
Crank style Compost Bin – Often made of a plastic barrel that is on its side and suspended with a pole allowing the user to turn over the compost by spinning. The organic material is added and removed by a door that’s installed in the barrel.
Compost bucket – Often is just a bucket used to hold compost till it is moved out tot the pile.
What to Compost:
- Plant based food scraps
- Lint and fur/hair
- Paper (avoid shiny papers and paper with wax/plastic)
- Plant clippings (grass, leaves, and full plants(if diseased do not include)
- Wood ash (non treated woods)
- Hay or straw (Organic only “No herbicides”)
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Spent beer brewing grains
What Not to Compost:
- Diseased plants
- Plants that were treated with herbicides since they can hurt plant growth.
- Breads (Can lead to mold growth)
- Seed heads (Often the seeds will survive the compost and grow when is is spread.)
Tips for composting:
- Turn over the compost to introduce more oxygen and speed it up
- Add water if the pile is dry and it has not rained.
- Break up larger materials and sticks.
Not using traditional chemical fertilizers
Chemical fertilizers are not needed in gardening and can be detrimental to the growth and production of the plants and fruit. In the first few years of using chemical fertilizers the plants will seem to thrive but after long term use it can stunt growth or cause the plants to be less resilient and can be killed by pests, drout, or frost easier.
- Nutrient lockout
- Increased carbon foot print
- Petroleum based
- Watershed / runoff