Below are just a few of the excellent reasons why so many gardeners and horticulturists are taking advantage of organic composting at home.
- Ideal for growing organic herbs, fruits and vegetables.
- Saves money on fertilizer and other store-bought gardening products.
- A good alternative to chemical fertilizers for parents, pet-owners and others concerned with safety and health.
- Conserves dwindling landfill space.
- Easy, convenient way to dispose of garden refuse (often prohibited from landfills).
- Helps wards off pests and weeds without chemical pesticides or herbicides.
- Improves plant growth and quality.
- Reduces erosion and nutrient run-off.
- Restores nutrients back into the soil.
- Helps loosen soil and can be used as mulch.
- Breaks down clay based soils.
How to make garden compost at home
You’ve got all kinds of leaves, yard trimmings and household waste, and you constantly have to figure out what to do with all of it. Turning it into garden compost is a wise, beneficial and money-saving choice for the home gardener.
People have been engaged in garden composting for hundreds of years – long before landfills began to overflow and the need to reduce waste became critical. Combining various types of organic waste starts a microbial process that converts the matter into useful mulch that will enhance the soil in gardens, vegetable beds and landscaped areas.
Efficient organic composting
The most common way to compost for the garden is to create a compost pile. Several factors are important in generating quality compost.
Aeration – Turn your compost pile several times a month to provide oxygen and speed up the decomposition process.
Moisture – Good compost results from efficient breakdown of matter, which requires adequate water. Make sure to keep your compost pile moist.
Size of waste particles – Smaller pieces will decompose faster. Chop up bulky brush or sticks by hand or with a shredder.
Carbon-to-nitrogen ratio – Waste with high carbon content (straw, sawdust) decomposes slowly, unless you add nitrogen fertilizer. Leaves and grass contain high levels of nitrogen, as do poultry litter, manure and blood meal. Read up on the subject, and aim for a balance.
Materials for garden composting
Many organic materials are excellent for composting. Leaves, grass cuttings, straw and plant trimmings that are primarily non-woody can all be used. If you’ve got grass that’s been cut from your lawn, mix it with a variety of other wastes, because grass tends to compact and reduce airflow.
When searching for compost material, don’t just look in your yard. Your kitchen probably contains a fine supply of meat and vegetable scraps, bones, coffee grounds and egg shells, all of which can be used in the compost pile. You can also add newspaper with black print. However, because it contains very little nitrogen to enhance decomposition, keep newspaper to less than 10 percent of the weight of the pile.
Certain waste products could create a health hazard or simply a problem for those living nearby. Feces from humans or pets (such as cats and dogs) can breed and transmit disease. While meat, bones, grease, dairy products and whole eggs can be used, be aware they may attract rodents and other pests to the compost pile. Minimize the use of plants that have been treated with herbicides and pesticides.
Participating in garden composting provides many benefits to the home gardener. Yet the biggest benefit may be preserving the health of the earth. By composting a percentage of our waste materials, we support the planet’s health by decreasing the overuse of city and county landfills.
As you can see, the question of how to make garden compost is not a difficult one to answer, because you already have all the materials you need. Living things require other living (organic) things in order to thrive, so get to work on your compost pile, and in a few weeks you’ll have a living mulch that will help beautify everything you grow.
Learn more about composting, it’s history, and benefits in our comprehensive composting guide.