The Secret to Organic Gardening – Composting

shira getting free compost for our garden
Image by arimoore via Flickr

Compost is a great tool for any gardener. It helps your garden hold just the right amount of water, makes it the right texture for plant growth, and provides it with beneficial natural organisms. While you can buy this type of product at the store, it’s cheaper to make it yourself. You also get the added benefit of knowing that you’re not just throwing your yard waste away; it’s actually doing something beneficial.

Before getting started on your compost pile, you should know what to put in it. To get good compost you need carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water. Grass clippings from your yard provide carbon, and nitrogen comes from leaves in the fall. To make sure your pile gets water, build it somewhere where it will be rained on; just be sure it’s not completely soaked with water. Lastly, you can add oxygen simply by mixing the pile. If you can’t provide enough nitrogen or carbon to your compost pile, you can always add a little fertilizer. The type will depend on what nutrient you’re lacking.

There are two different types of compost piles you can make; the first is a cool pile. To make a cool pile, simply throw your clippings and leaves in the bin as they come and stir the ingredients occasionally. This is a good option if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to composting, but it takes about a year to get useable compost. You shouldn’t add diseased plants or weeds to this mixture because they can be harmful.

If you need your compost sooner than a year, you should try making a hot compost pile. Unlike cool piles, you need to have a significant amount of yard waste available to start a hot pile; at least 3 feet by 3 feet. This mixture will require mixing much more often. You can mix it anywhere from once every two weeks to once every couple of days. The more you mix, the faster you get compost. This type of pile will kill weed seeds and diseases because it reaches much higher temperatures (about 160°), but may also kill beneficial bacteria.

When you compost pile no longer resembles what you put into it, it’s ready to be used. Just mix into your soil for strong, healthy plants.

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