If you have a garden, you’ve probably thought about composting, or you already have a compost bin or pile. The question is, do you know all you should to get started composting? Do you know the dirty truth about composting?
Build Your Compost Bin
The first thing you need is a place to put your compost. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional. You can use metal fence posts and chicken wire, pallets and screws, or a store-bought composting bin. As long as it holds all the compost together in one pile so the bacteria inside can break down the plant matter effectively, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Be sure to put the container somewhere that gets plenty of sun so the compost gets warm to aid the decomposition process.
What To Put In Your Compost Pile
Make sure you’re putting in the right stuff. If you’re just getting your compost going, it would be a good idea to start with some small branches and limbs to make sure the air flows well at the bottom of the pile.
Make sure you’re adding both green and brown material to ensure a good mixture. Too much green material and the compost will mold, rot and be smelly. Too much brown material and the pile will just sit there. Mixing the two together will ensure that the pile gets everything evenly distributed and adds some air to the mix, too. This will make the best compost (especially if it’s just slightly moist).
Be sure you do not add any plant material that has been treated with chemicals or any that are diseased. For example, you can put fresh cut grass clippings in the pile unless you treat your lawn with chemicals for weeds.
Add material regularly so the beneficial bacteria in the pile always has something to eat. As the bacteria works, the pile will get warmer and warmer. In fact, if you have a really active pile, on cold days, you may even see steam rising from the pile. This is perfectly normal.
Turn the pile with a shovel or pitchfork every week or two to make sure that all of the materials are blended in and working together. After you’ve mixed things up, grab a handful to see if it’s slightly damp. Too little moisture will slow the decomposition process and too much will leave you with a slimy mess.
So have you figured out the dirty truth about composting yet?
The truth is, it’s one of the easiest gardening chores you’ll ever do. Unlike weeding which takes a lot of time and physical effort, a compost pile pretty much takes care of itself. Start it off right, and it will help your garden immensely for years to come.
In the event that you have a few problems, remember these simple things:
- Don’t start too small. The breakdown process needs a lot of stuff in order to do its job.
- Keep things moist. It’s easy to walk away and forget that there’s an active process happening. Check the pile regularly, especially during hot, dry weather.
- Don’t depend on one material. A combination of different textures and nutrients created by the disintegration of many different plants will give your pile’s bacteria a gourmet diet that helps create disease and pest resistance. Think about it – a huge clump of grass clippings just sticks together in a huge mat that hangs around for years. Add some leaves, stir, and natural forces like water, air and heat go to work quickly!
- Finally, don’t get overwhelmed. This isn’t rocket science. Just jump in and give it a try. You’ll soon learn that composting is easy (and kind of fun, too)!