Composting is not only practiced to enhance the gardening or landscaping experience but also to make use of food and raw material waste. When you compost, you are participating first hand with the earth in order to produce the best quality crops and to “treat” your soil. The process is simple enough, and available even to those of us who have smaller patios. However, some of us don’t know how to get started, and are unfamiliar with ways to compost correctly. For example, a common mistake by newbies is to throw fatty processed foods and bones from takeout in the mixture. Below are some succulent compost secrets you wish you knew before you tried composting for yourself!
Secret and Not-So Secret Tips for Composting:
Bins will help keep animals and pests away – Using or building your own bin to hold your compost is the best way to get started. Small animals and pests may be warded off by the high walls, which will keep them out of your food scraps more often. A lot of beginners may use the floor to house their compost, but it is much more efficient to keep your compost in organized bins. It can also make things a lot less messy! Lids for compost bins are not required. In fact, your compost bin might enjoy sunlight to get some heat going in the pile.
Think green – When we think of composting, we think of going green and honoring the earth and yadda yadda so-on. There is a reason for this connotation. Your compost pile should literally include greens! Leaves, salad remains, grass, fruits, and vegetables are important staples to every compost pile. If your pile consists of only brown ingredients, it will be unbalanced and less effective for your soil.
Let your compost pile breathe – If your compost pile is constantly sweating or covered up, it is simply not getting enough air. Air is important to keep your pile from smelling rancid and scaring away garden guests! If your bin has a lid, allow it a few hours of oxygen during the day and keep it closed through the night.
Be creative with ingredients to create more variety – If you are unsure about what ingredients to use; look up some individual options and do proper research about their purpose in composting. There are many compost ingredients that people are surprised and even a little creeped out by! For example, human hair, straw, egg shells, and bone meal are highly effective compost ingredients. You can even drop your tea bag in the pile after you’ve finished your nightly drink. Just make sure to remove any paper garnishes!
Water your compost pile – Your compost pile should be damp. It should not be drying out, even with the sun beaming down on it during the day. You should water your compost pile once or even twice per day. Water will work with the green items in your pile to create even more moisture and heat, which will allow it to be ready quicker.
Your “ready” compost will most likely be at the bottom of your pile – As you stir your pile with a shovel, rake, or pitchfork, you might find that there is moist and luscious compost a the bottom of your pile. This means it is time to separate and harvest your compost. You can use this compost for planting and gardening as soon as it is ready; in fact it is best to do so right away.
Beware of special handling items – Some items take longer to decompose and this can mess with the balance of your pile. Some of these items include pine needles, hedge trimmings, nuts, pine cones, cardboard, moss, and even sod. Usually you will need to shred these items or chop them into smaller pieces. However, there are some items you will need to research individually about how long they take to decompose and how to properly use them.
Use this as your starter guide to composting and remember to be gentle with your pile, caring for it and handling it as required!