What You Need to Know About Composting

There are some of us that have already taken gardening as a hobby for years already, but there are many that are just beginning to learn the complex process of gardening and taking care of plants. If you are one of these beginners in gardening, then you may not be familiar with the word “composting.” While most newbies are unfamiliar with the said word, it is actually one of the most important terms that you need to learn about before you even start planting flowers and other types of plants. Here are things that you need to know about composting to learn more about this important process.   According to the experts from Good Housekeeping Institute, following are tips for making composting work for you regardless of the place you live.

What is Composting?

Composting is a process wherein you can turn food waste, decomposing plants, and other organic materials into fertilizer that can improve the soil and make plants healthier. The organic materials would often contain nutrients that the soil needs in order for it to be more nutritious and beneficial for plants. 

In addition to providing nutrients, the organic materials also attract beneficial organisms into the soil, such as fungal mycelium and worms, which are essential in turning the materials into actual nutrients that can be absorbed by the plants. While it may seem simple to create compost, there are actually complex steps that you need to follow in order to make proper compost.

Benefits of Compost to Your Plants and the Environment

Besides being nutritious for your plants, there are other benefits of composting not only for your garden or lawn but also for the environment. Here are the unique advantages of making compost.

  • Enhances the structure of your garden’s soil.
  • Prevents the soil from becoming too dry (crusting).
  • Makes it easier for plants to develop roots in the soil.
  • A superb environment for microorganisms to thrive in (these organisms can help break down particles of the compost into nutrients that plants can easily absorb).
  • Reduces your garden’s need for chemical fertilizers (which can be harmful to the environment).
  • Decontaminates soil and makes it safer for plants.
  • Reduces trash and waste in landfills since you are recycling some of the waste materials for composting

Materials for Composting

Making compost can be complicated at the beginning, but once you get the hang of the materials to mix and the tools to use, it will become a much simpler process sooner rather than later. Here is the list of materials that you will need to mix with your compost.

Materials with Carbon (Dry/Brown Materials)

One of the elements that are needed for proper compost is carbon, which can be found in dry organic materials such as:

  • Dry Leaves
  • Cardboard (needs to be shredded to mix well with other materials)
  • Pieces of paper (should be shredded as well)
  • Sawdust
  • Small twigs

Materials with Nitrogen (Wet/Green Materials)

Another element that should be found in your compost is nitrogen. This element can be added to your compost through the wet organic materials listed below.

  • Clippings of grass
  • Peels from fruits
  • Unused parts of vegetables
  • Leaves (preferably tea leaves)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Weeds

Recommended Tools for Composting

There are various tools that you will need to make better compost. Although most of the tools for composting are optional, it would still be better if you have them since they can help have an easier and more convenient time compositing. Take a look below for the list of recommended composting tools.

Compost Bin

compost bin

Of course, you wouldn’t be able to compost properly without a compost bin, which is primarily used to convert organic waste materials into compost over time. There are two types of compost bins that you can purchase or build on your own, with one being a continuous type that allows you to keep adding organic materials and collect compost without the need to replace what’s inside the bin, while the other is the type where you will need to replace previous materials to create another batch. Compost bins can also be made from different materials, like stone, plastic, ceramic, and wood.

Compost Thermometer

The compost thermometer measures the temperature of the compost while it is heating up (heating is an important process in making compost). This tool is completely optional, as most gardening experts would know when the compost is usable by just monitoring its size, which can shrink over time whenever it is heated.

Pitchfork 

This tool can be utilized to harvest compost or to break up any large materials. The pitchfork can also serve as an alternative to a shovel.

Wheelbarrow

A wheelbarrow is what you need to have if you want convenience in transferring compost from one place to another. A wheelbarrow is much easier to bring with you than a compost bucket.

Compost Screener

This is an optional tool that separates the larger grains of the compost to the finer and smaller grains, which are more suitable for soil and plants.

Aerator

A tool that adds oxygen to the compost to make it more active for bacteria and other organisms that can help plants absorb more nutrients from the compost. This is really one of the best composting tools you will need if you want to make better compost.

Making Compost

compost and soil

As previously mentioned, making compost is a complex task, but through trial and error and multiple tries, you will eventually be able to make the best compost for your plants. Here are some steps that you should follow to make compost properly.

Combine Different Materials

Before making compost, you would need to prepare a compost bin where you will place and mix different materials. In addition, you should make sure that the finished product should be at least 3 feet in height while inside the compost bin.

The first set of materials that you need to place inside the bin is the dry and brown materials that contain carbon, which are shredded cardboard, shredded paper, dry leaves, and other material mentioned in one of the lists above. The first set of materials should be a large layer of dry materials that will serve as the base of the compost to make it much sturdier.

The second set of materials to be placed in the compost bin is a mixture of dry or brown materials and wet or green materials, which contain nitrogen. Most gardening experts would recommend mixing these materials 3:1, meaning that three parts of dry materials should be mixed with one part wet materials. 

The downside to having too much green and wet material in your compost is that it will smell awful, or it will be too wet for soil, so you would really need to add more brown materials to control the odor and the wetness of the compost. However, don’t add too many brown materials, or the compost will be too dry.

Aerate and Water the Pile

After mixing the materials, you should use the aerator often to add oxygen to the compost and activate beneficial organisms. In addition to aerating, you should also water the pile regularly so that its consistency will remain moist, which can help in activating the microorganisms and letting them thrive. 

But, be careful in watering the pile, as adding too much water may just turn your pile into mud rather than compost. Furthermore, too much water can make both brown and green materials rot and not suitable for plants.

Monitor the Pile

Turning a pile of green and brown materials into compost is a lengthy process, as it would often take around 20 days (depending on the size of the compost) before the pile can be suitable for gardening. During those days of waiting, you would need to monitor the pile and make sure that it still feels warm (by using a thermometer or your hands) and that there are no pests like rodents and bugs that tarnishes or compromises the overall structure of the compost.

If there is an instance where the pile is not heating up or warm enough, you can add more green and wet materials to fill the pile up with more nitrogen. Moreover, you can also add a starter bag of compost to reactivate the pile and eventually turn it into compost. Keep a close eye on the pile, or else your efforts will be wasted.

Collect the Compost

Once the pile is very warm, has worms living in it, and has a crumbly texture, it means that it has successfully turned into compost. Collect the compost using a shovel or pitchfork and place them in a wheelbarrow for easier transport. You can add at least four to six inches of compost into every flower bed or soil where your plants grow.  Also you can hire services like ones in Skip Hire Chorley for when you need help as well.

Through this guide, we hope that we helped you have a much easier time making compost. Remember that compost doesn’t always come out perfect on the first try, so you would really have to try and repeat several times before you can get the best compost for your garden.