Compost: Tonic for Your Garden

To a real gardener compost is worth its weight in gold. It conditions the soil, provides it with much needed nutrients, and also acts as mulch for your garden. It is an excellent replacement for the chemicals we like to flood our soil with.

Anyone who is a gardening enthusiast will be able to count the benefits of composting on his finger tips. First and foremost, it adds valuable organic matter to soil which works like a revitalizing tonic for it. Compost helps clay soil to drain water better and sandy soil to retain more water. It loosens up the soil and aids in better root entry.

What Can I Compost?

Things that can be added to compost can be divided into three categories – Food Waste, Yard Waste & Other Matter

Food Waste would include all kinds of scraps from the kitchen, including fruits and vegetables and their cores, egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, and nutshells among other things

Yard Waste would typically include materials like wood chips, grass and hedge clippings, leaves, straw, pine needles and pine cones, hay, sods, and cut flowers.

Other matter would include shredded newspaper, toilet paper rolls, sawdust, hair, shredded stems and twigs, seaweed and manure. Take care to use manure only from animals that are vegetarian like pigeons, ducks, sheep, goats and cows.

What to Avoid Putting into Compost Bins

Avoid composting things like meat scraps, bones, fish dairy products, grease and oil as they can generate a lot of bad odor, which can attract rodents to the compost bins. Black walnut tree leaves and twigs are known to release substances that are very harmful for plants. So, keep them out of the compost bins. While most ashes are beneficial for compost, coal ashes contain sulfur and iron that can cause damage to plants. Pet Droppings contain disease organisms which can make the compost toxic.

How Do I Start Composting in My House?

Contrary to what people may believe, composting is fairly simple and can be easily done at home. Once you have decided a spot for your compost bin, pile in all the material you’ve gathered into it. Add one part of green garden debris like grass clippings and old annuals, which are high in nitrogen, to two part brown garden debris like dry leaves, which are rich in carbon dioxide. To this, add a portion of finished compost or garden soil and the process of decomposition will take place faster. Check the moisture content of the compost regularly and don’t forget aerate the pile every now and then by turning it.

How Do I know When I am Done?

When the compost no longer heats up and all the components are totally unidentifiable, you know that it is ready. The finished matter is usually less than half the volume of the original matter that you put in, but it is a lot denser. Compost has a distinct smell of rich, dark soil. Add the finished compost to your garden 2-4 weeks before you plant.

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