Composting is a great way to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden and shrink your carbon footprint. Reusing your organic matter for composting is beneficial in a number of ways, but let’s focus on how it helps your garden flourish, and how you can get started with your own compost pile.
Step 1: Pick Your Location
Finding the perfect location for your compost pile that suits your needs as well as your gardens and neighbors can be a bit tricky. Find a convenient location that is level, with good drainage and out of direct sunlight and wind. Neighbors may not find your compost pile as great as you do, so take their view on it into consideration. Once you find that perfect spot, it’s time to start building a bin or area for your compost.
Step 2: Pick Your Building Materials
Methods of composting are as diverse as the different soil qualities they will produce. If you’re quite handy, you can build a 3-bin turning unit that keeps compost in different stages. You can also create a compost pile as simple as placing three wooden pallets together or drilling holes in a garbage pail. Once you have your materials, you can build your compost area to any design that you think will work for you.
Step 3: Build Up Your Pile
Creating rich soil from composting depends heavily on what you put on your pile. Starting with a good base will help keep the process going as the season progresses. You can add grass clippings, soil, food scraps, manure, fertilizer and moist leaves. There are a few things that you should avoid putting in your compost: if something cannot decay, leave it out. The same goes for meat and dairy products, as well as anything that has been treated with pesticides.
Step 4: Turn and Water Your Compost
Nature puts a bit of effort into decomposing organic matter, and when you compost you help speed that process along. Your pile will get warm, as decomposition is quick between 110 and 160 degrees. Turn your heap when it seems to be cooling, and add water as needed. This helps speed up the process. The speed at which your compost is created depends on several factors, including the weather, compost material and the dampness of the matter.
Step 5: Troubleshoot the Compost Issues
You may worry about pests making a home in your compost or rancid smells, but these are minor worries. Stinky compost is a sign that something is wrong, such as lack of oxygen in your pile. Likewise, pests and vermin tend to stay away from healthy compost.
Turning your pile should deliver a nice dose of oxygen, and the temperature of the decomposition process naturally destroys insect eggs and larvae. Smells and pests could also signal the presence of pesticides, which delay and inhibit the decomposition process by killing the microorganisms responsible for compost creation.
Now that you know the basics of composting, you can start or plan your own pile. You may also wish to use worms in your pile, which is called vermicomposting, another popular composting method. Tumbling compost bins are great if you turn your pile frequently, and there are several easy to set up and use bins on the market. With a little ingenuity and a proper diet, your pile will give you healthy compost that your garden will love.