Composting in your backyard cuts down waste and reduces trash sent to landfills. It’s a great way to get green and help save the planet. So, what exactly is composting? Compost is essentially biodegradable trash, like egg cartons and banana peels that becomes decomposed organic matter. Animals and fungi feed on compostable materials which in turn feed soil. It’s all a part of a natural cycle of giving back to the planet what it gives to us.
To begin, you should designate an area for your compost to happen, this can be a bin or a pallet structure. Follow the ‘3’ rule - 3 feet high, 3 feet wide, 3 feet deep. Use old wood pallets, recycle old plastic bins, or use chicken wire to shelter the compost pile. Once you have a structure, you can begin to create the compost.
You will need to water your compost so make sure it’s close to a hose and that it has some shelter from harsh sun rays. Too much water can break down compost materials too quickly and constant sunlight will dry up the compost. It should be a in a moist area with shade that receives some sunlight throughout the day.
Compost soil can be bought in bulk bags from most nurseries or outdoor lawn and garden center but you can also use your own soil. Remember to that fertilizer feed plants and compost feeds soil, but you can use a mixture of both. The best combination is to use organic fertilizer to supplement compost. This will create rich dark soil that can be used for a variety of plants.
While organic fertilizers and compost can be bought, it’s always better when it’s from home. Find dead leaves, small tree branches, wood chips, shredded cardboard and newspaper, coffee filters, and used cotton balls and swabs to add to soil.
The whole point of starting a compost pile is to begin composting! Once your soil base it built up, it’s time to add the greens… er goods to the pile. Biodegradable materials increase nitrogen production. Many compostable materials can be used but here’s a few to get you started: fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, hair and lint (after you brush your dog, add it to the pile!) coffee and tea grounds, and food scraps like pasta and oatmeal.
Consider adding worms if you want faster breakdown of compost materials. Most worms are probably scrounging about in your backyard so get digging. You can also buy specialty compost worms at most nurseries but check before you go to make sure they have them. Worms produce castings which support plant production with valuable nutrients. Remember that worms can’t eat everything - don’t add citrus (oranges, lemons, lime), dairy, meat, processed foods, oils, or anything high in sugar. Worms also can’t be in direct sunlight so, remember to keep your pile in a shadowy area.
Add three parts soil to one part compost material. Add in lots of shredded paper and cardboard to your soil portion. If you are adding worms, add in the soil, then the worms. Give them a few hours to bury down into the soil. Then add the compost material to the top, lightly pushing it into the soil.
Every day, use a small rake to mix the compost into the soil. Make sure to keep it moist with either rainwater or using a gardening hose. You don’t want a soggy or dense compost, so if it feels like that, add some cardboard or paper material. The goal of the compost is to produce rick dark soil without any tangible compostable material left. Everything should be broken down and then can be used as soil for plants, gardens, and the like. A compost can be used over and over and many just use it as a ‘greener’ way to reduce waste.
Want more help in creating a sustainable compost pile? Give 512 Landscaping a call today and we'll help you get the most out of your garden!