One feature new homeowners most look forward to adding is a backyard garden. Afterall, is there anything better than a homegrown tomato or zucchini?

Another benefit of homeownership is the ability to start a compost heap for your garden. By skipping chemical fertilizers in favor of compost you will not only have a great way to recycle yard and kitchen scraps but also naturally replenish the soil. This leads to healthier plants, a healthier you and little by little a healthier planet.

Compost is so nourishing because of what is called humus. Humus is the part of soils made from decomposition. It restores nutrients to the malnourished soil, helps the soil retain moisture and even keep diseases from affecting your plants.

To get started you’ll want to choose how you’ll go about creating your compost. You can either opt for a tumbling composter, which takes a lot of the manual work out of turning your pile, or creating your compost on top of the ground, where it will have easy access to earthworms and easily drain excess water.

When creating a compost pile you will want it to be at least 3 feet long by 3 feet wide. You will also want your pile to be about 3 feet high. To help keep your pile neat and contained you can build, or buy, a fence-like box for your compost pile.  

When you have your compost “storage” of choice ready to go you’ll also want to have a good amount of scraps to begin building your pile up to those 3 feet I mentioned or fill up your bin. The best way to do this is to keep two sealable containers in your kitchen to toss scraps in for your pile. However, you don’t want to toss just anything into this container.

What you can put into your Dry (also called Brown) scrap container:

  • Eggshells

  • Tea leaves and/or coffee grounds

  • Dead flowers

  • Cardboard and paper goods (they must be unwaxed)

  • 100% cotton and/or wool (no synthetics)

What you can put in your Moist (also called Green) scrap container:

  • Vegetable scraps

  • Fruit scraps

  • Grass and leaves

  • Manure from herbivorous animals (cows, horses, rabbits, etc)

What you should never put in your containers:

  • Meat, fish or bone scraps

  • Manure from carnivorous animals (cats, dogs, etc)

  • Waxed, sticky or treated paper products and/or wood

  • Citrus peels or onions

Begin your pile with a layer of sticks and straw if you will be building it on bare ground. This will allow your compost to properly drain and avoid becoming oversaturated. Next, alternate layers of moist/green and dry/brown materials to an even 50/50 ratio.  

You will want turn over your pile every few weeks to allow for oxygenation. If your pile begins steaming that means the decomposition process is in action!  When it begins to turn a crumbly black in the center and earthworms are showing up compost has begun to/is fully formed and ready to use in your garden!

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