Compost is an important addition to any garden. For gardeners, making compost at home can be an effective and inexpensive way of helping their plants grow. Composting is also an eco-friendly way to dispose of kitchen waste. This step-by-step guide explains how to make compost that can help your garden flourish.
Choose a Container for Making Compost
Compost bins provide a dark place where organic materials can break down and gradually turn into compost. Gardeners should choose a bin that is large enough to accommodate all their waste and store it in a sunny part of the garden, so that the heat from the sun can speed up the decomposition process.
Add the Right Mixture of Ingredients
Compost requires a mixture of "green" plant matter, such as vegetable peelings and grass clippings, and "brown" matter, such as shredded newspaper, cardboard tubes, and dry leaves. Gardeners should aim to add roughly equal amounts of both types of matter and mix them together well to ensure a good moisture balance. Adding as many different types of vegetable peelings and plant waste as possible results in a compost that is rich in all types of nutrients. In general, animal foodstuffs, such as meat, bones, and dairy should be kept out of compost bins because they attract pests.
Add an Activator
Although not strictly necessary, an activator makes it much easier to get a compost bin working properly. An activator adds the right balance of microorganisms to the compost bin to ensure that the material breaks down quickly and consistently to form high-quality compost.
Maintain the Compost Bin
The bacteria that works to break down waste into compost needs a steady supply of food. Gardeners should get into the habit of adding both green and brown matter to their compost bin every few days. In addition, they should also turn the compost pile with a pitchfork once every couple of weeks to aerate it and ensure that the materials are mixed together well. If the decomposing material dries out, which is possible in hot weather, then gardeners should add a little water or waste with a high liquid content to keep the decomposition process working.
Know When the Compost Is Ready
The first batch of compost should be ready a few months after the bin is set up. Compost that is ready to use resembles dark, crumbly soil that has a fresh, earthy smell. If it still smells like rotting matter, or has an uneven texture with bits of vegetable matter or dead leaves still visible, then it's not ready yet.
Making compost requires patience, but the process is well worth it in the end. Once gardeners get into the habit of adding their kitchen and garden waste to a compost bin and conducting some basic maintenance of the pile, the process of making compost seems easy in comparison to its benefits.