Gardening — Compost

Spreading Compost On Plants Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up about 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Plants need more than just the nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, found in most so-called "balanced' fertilizers. They need dozens of micronutrients to grow strong and stay healthy.

Additionally plants benefit from being in an organically active soil. Organically active soil helps prevent bacterial and fungal diseases, and of course having organic matter in the soil attracts earth worms which further enrich the dirt. The one product you can get that adds all of these features is compost.

Maybe you've been thinking about composting, but aren't sure how to start. Or perhaps you heard compost piles are smelly, or attract bugs and mice. Whatever your lame excuse is, give it up. Here are 5 good reasons why compost is a great idea.

1 Composting Is Easy: How much time and effort do you spend putting things in the garbage can? A few seconds each week.

2 Composting Is Dirt Cheap: It costs next to nothing to start composting, aside from a tiny initial investment in a compost pail or bin.

3 Compost Makes a Healthy, Thriving Garden: You really can't find a better soil amendment than compost. It loosens clay soils and helps sandy soils retain water.

4 Composting Is Good for the Planet: Landfills everywhere are running out of room, and the EPA estimates that roughly 25% of the garbage in the U.S. is made up of yard trimmings and food scraps.

5 No Smell, No Pests: The rumor that compost attracts bugs, mice or other pests is a dirty, stinking lie. Only compost done wrong smells, or attracts vermin.

Compost Bin There are a number of ways to compost, but on average, compost can be created using five methods:

 Holding units
 Turning units
 Compost heaps
 Soil incorporation

With heap composting, there are no structures required, though you may use a compost bin if desired. Keep in mind that a compost heap or pile may not appear as neat and tidy as using a bin, but it is still one of the best options for newbies. You can also camouflage a compost pile with tall flowering plants or fencing.

You can start a compost pile any time of the year, but fall is the time of year when both nitrogen and carbon materials are readily available.

location: One of the most important aspects for starting a compost pile is its location. Choose an open, level area with good drainage. You do not want your compost to sit in standing water. An area with partial sun or shade is also ideal. Too much sun can dry the pile out, while too much shade can keep it overly wet. Finally, choose a site that is easy for you to get to and avoid areas near dogs or other meat-eating animals.

size: The recommended size for a compost pile is generally no smaller than 3 feet high and wide and no larger than 5 feet. Anything smaller may not heat up efficiently and anything larger may hold too much water and become difficult to turn. It is recommended to start your pile on bare ground rather than on asphalt or concrete. This impedes aeration and inhibits microbes. Placing a pallet underneath the pile is fine, however, if you prefer.

  adding organic materials: There are some items that you should keep out of your compost pile. These include:

 Meat, dairy, fat or oil products
 Carnivorous pet feces (e.g. dog, cat)
 Diseased plants, or weeds that have seeded
 Human waste
 Charcoal or coal ash (wood ash is ok though)

aerobic decomposition: When organic material decomposes with oxygen, the process is called "aerobic." "Aerobic composting" requires a considerable amount of oxygen and produces none of the characteristic features of anaerobic putrefaction. In its modern sense, aerobic composting can be defined as a process in which, under suitable environmental conditions, aerobic organisms, principally thermophilic, utilize considerable amounts of oxygen in decomposing organic matter to fairly stable humus

moisture: Aerobic decomposition can proceed at any moisture content between 30% and 100% if adequate aeration can be provided.

aeration: Aeration is necessary for high temperature aerobic composting to obtain rapid odor-free decomposition. Aeration is also useful in reducing high initial moisture content in composting materials. Several different aeration techniques can be used with varying degrees of success. Turning the material is the most common method of aeration when composting is done in stacks. Hand turning of the compost piles or in units is most commonly used for small garden operations.

Further Information

 Introduction to Composting
 6 Ways to Make Great Compost
 How To Choose a Compost Bin
 EPA: Types of Composting & Understanding the Process
 How To Make Compost Tea

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