Compost is the natural process in which microorganisms convert organic material such as manure, leaves, grass and food waste into a soil-like material called compost. With compost, the nutrients found in the organic matter are released slowly. Compost is so nutrient rich, it often meets the needs of a plant for one year. Compost is an excellent substance to build “good” soil.
Compost improves the structure of all garden soils, and increases drainage of clay soils. Regardless of where you garden or what you grow, compost will make your plants healthier, more vigorous, and increase their flowering and fruiting like nothing else. Simply put, composting is the best possible thing you can do for your garden.
Compost is not only good for your garden, but good for the environment. By composting our organic waste, we can save it from being wasted in landfills. There are many types of composters that can be purchased at Gasper. But you can easily make one out of wood and even simple wire fencing. They need not be large, and an area of 3’ x 3’ x 3’ is considered ideal. Remember if making one from wood, do not make it solid. Leave airspace between slats to provide oxygen. When planning your compost bin, consider making three bins, one for a pile, you are actively filling, the second for a pile that is ‘resting’ or actively decomposing, and a third for finished compost that is ready to use in your garden.
The formula to make compost is to add two parts “brown” material to one part “green” material. The best and easiest to obtain brown material is shredded leaves. Each fall, run over leaves with a lawn mower or a leaf shredder as whole leaves do not break down as easily in the compost bin. Many people save fall leaves to maintain proper compost brown to green ratios throughout the whole year.
Brown compost materials are carbon rich and include:
- shredded leaves
- shredded newspaper
- crushed eggshells
- non-pressure treated sawdust*
- wood ashes*
- natural tea bags
Green compost materials are nitrogen rich and include:
- grass clippings
- coffee grounds
- vegetable & fruit scraps
- trimmings from perennial & annual plants
- animal manures such as cow, horse, chicken or rabbits
Things NOT put in your compost include:
- dog or cat feces
- fish or meat scraps
- glossy or coated paper
- chemically treated Items
- ash from charcoal briquettes
A’ hot’ compost pile that is sufficiently watered and turned frequently can create compost in as little as a few weeks or months. Being hot means that your compost has enough high nitrogen material decomposing in it that it actually increases in temperature (ideally 141-155°f), which speeds up the rate of decomposition and can actually kill weed seeds and disease pathogens. A ‘cold’ compost pile requires far much less effort, but can take up a year or two to produce useable compost. With this method, you simply add materials to your pile and then wait for them to decompose. Because the pile is not reaching the same high temperatures needed to kill weed seeds and other plant diseases as hot composting, it is recommended not to add weed debris or diseased plants to your cold compost pile.
Make Your Own Compost