Are you interested in giving your landscaping new life? Compost literally does that. Not only will compost rejuvenate soil with a dose of nutrients, but also it brings beneficial bacteria and fungi back into your garden beds or orchards. These microbes will feed nutrients to your plants by converting organic matter in the soil and compost to plant-available food.
Even though compost is widely used these days, not everyone knows that it has been around for centuries. The truth is that civilizations have relied on the “black gold” since before the time of Moses. The Romans and Greeks made and used compost as well as Native Americans and European settlers in North America.
You can compost right in your backyard. But first, you need to know exactly what makes up compost.
Understand the Compost Recipe
So, what are the possible ingredients in the recipes for compost?
1. Peat: Decaying vegetable is a naturally occurring substance that might be in your compost recipe. Peat is not high in nutrients, but it does provide a warm, aerated environment which is important for plant roots. It also helps hold moisture.
2. Sterilized loam: Loam is sterilized when it has been heat-treated to ensure all diseases and weed seeds have been destroyed.
3. Grit: Grit is usually added to compost to improve the aeration around the roots and to help with drainage. Ask what size of grit is in the compost you want to purchase.
4. Coir: Coir might be in your recipe for compost. It is a natural by-product of coconut husks and helps the compost retain water.
5. Bark: If the compost recipe does not include peat, it might include bark. The key is to be sure the bark is adequately composted so it doesn’t damage plants.
6. Composted stable manure: This ingredient contains many nutrients from horse manure and bedding materials. Many times, compost will have this ingredient, but the odor is absent.
Now that you know what goes into the mix, you can focus on the process of improving the mix through binning, discarding material and turning the compost.
Set Up Your Compost Pile
First, head over to our product page to price our compost. It’s already rich with nutrients, and you can lay it down in your gardens right now. But your efforts can improve the mix even further. Think of it as a starter kit. And delivery is FREE.
Pick a really sunny spot on your property that is away from the house but close enough to be easily accessible with a wheelbarrow. Find a good location to start your pile, likely near where you want to spread the final product.
Then buy or make a compost bin and place it in that designated area. The bin only has to be large enough to keep the compost contained, moist, warm, ventilated and protected from the local wildlife. Otherwise, the compost won’t turn out right, and the neighborhood’s animals will climb all over the pile looking for food.
Collect Scraps for Your Compost
Next, collect vegetable waste from your kitchen. Begin adding your materials to our compost mix. Here are some items that will help make great compost:
- Green, leafy vegetable waste (a source of Nitrogen)
- Eggshells (a source of Calcium)
- Coffee grounds & tea bags
- Unbleached paper products (toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, etc.)
- Lawn clippings
- Leaves and twigs
*Do NOT add anything to your compost that has pesticides or chemicals
As your waste materials begin to accumulate, bacteria and fungi will start the break-down process. Because bacteria need carbon to process nitrogen (wet, green materials), you may need to add dry materials like unbleached paper products, cardboard or twigs, and dry leaves to keep the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio in the appropriate place. Most sources agree that a proper C:N ratio should be roughly 25:1.
When you have achieved the appropriate balance, your pile will begin to heat up. The center of your pile may hit temperatures as high as 150 degrees as bacteria multiply rapidly and feast.
Keep Your Compost Moist
Microbes rely on moisture to survive. If the pile begins to dry out, you may want to add more green material or fresh manure.
The cold, dry air that comes with winter can pose a threat to a moist compost pile. Draping a tarp over a compost pile not only keeps the heat in, but also preserves the moisture in the compost to keep microbes alive. Gardeners who do this should periodically add water to the pile since it will be shielded from natural sources of water.
Work the Compost
The bacteria that you want in your pile are aerobic, meaning that they function in the presence of oxygen. Because of this, you’ll want to “turn” your pile every couple of days using a pitchfork or shovel to reintroduce oxygen to the middle. Simply dig into the pile, rotating the contents from the center and bottom of the pile to the top. It takes some effort but will keep the decomposition process chugging along.
You’ll need to turn your pile regularly for a few weeks and then occasionally for another month or two as the materials continue to break down. A great resource for more detailed information of the composting process can be found at HowToCompost.org.
You’ll also need to break down the larger particles. The bigger the scraps are in a compost pile, the more difficult it is for microbes to break them down. To help them out and speed up the process, gardeners can break up food and other scraps into little pieces before throwing them on top of the pile. Particles smaller than 2 inches are ideal and can also help to form a layer of insulation to keep the heat in.
If the whole process of composting is beginning to sound a little daunting or you are wondering how you will find the time and energy to bring compost into your garden, never fear! Saunders Landscape Supply has an already-formulated compost mix, and we will also offer FREE DELIVERY. All you need to do is contact us.