Thursday, May 13, 2010

Compost: making black gold in your own backyard

Several of you have been asking for a post about making compost.  Well, I aim to please.

We were fortunate to have a compost pile already started when we bought our home, but we were already experienced composters, having built an area at our previous home.

Compost is great because it is:  free, easy, and incredibly beneficial to your garden. 

Once you see how it's done, you'll want to be a composter too.

Here is a pic of my compost area.  I can get by with a big pile because I have a lot of land and our home and yard are very rustic. 

We simply toss things into the pile and stir it occasionally.

To save our cooking scraps to add to the pile, I keep them in a couple of zipper freezer bags under my kitchen sink.  I would love to have a cute bucket that seals, but I don't have very much room under my sink.  Bags work for me right now.  I save things like:  veggie and fruit peelings and cores, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags. I  never add dairy or meat products.  It will turn rancid. 

I actually have two different piles.  I call one my slow compost and the other is my fast compost.  The slow compost contains chicken, goat and horse poop manure along with weeds, twigs, and tough fibers like bamboo and pampas grass cuttings.  Those things take a longer time to break down.  My fast compost includes leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and flower trimmings.  Those items break down quickly and I have dark compost before you know it.

(stupid blogger won't let me make this pic larger)

So, here's the nitty gritty on composting:

1.  Select an area for your composting.  You can build a bin with wood, wire, or fencing.  Start with an area about 3 feet by 3 feet and around 3 feet tall. 

2.  Dump several inches of grass clippings or straw onto the bottom of the area.  Stomp it down and water it a little bit.

3.  Add a few inches of regular gardening soil.  You can also add some bone meal or manure if you want to accelerate the composting process.

4.  Continue to add layers of grass, leaves, plant trimmings and kitchen scraps.   Water everything well.

5.  Every few weeks, use a pitchfork to "toss" the compost.  Pretend you are tossing a salad with salad dressing. 

6.  Try to have a ratio of 1:3 of green (grass, kitchen scraps) to brown (straw, leaves) in your pile.  This is the most efficient compost ratio. 

7.  In a smaller yard, you can purchase a premade composter for making small amounts. 

My plants love my compost.  Here are my cherries, happily growing, but protected from the birds with netting.

These peonies refused to bloom until I top dressed them with my yummy compost. 

So, go outside and start a compost pile.  Let me know how it turns out.  Feel free to email me if you have any more questions. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I have been wanting to do this for a while and kept waiting for my husband to help me out. I figured out I didn't need him and I made one myself. I'm so excited! My plants need some food!!!


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