Category Archives: Garden Basics

Composting the Easy Way

Composting the Easy Way
Composting the Easy Way

Having an ample supply of good rich compost is the gardeners dream.
It has many uses, and all of those uses will result in nicer plants. However, composting can be time consuming and hard work. I place a reasonable value on my time, so spending hours and hours turning compost piles doesn’t qualify as a worthwhile exercise, at least in my book. Nonetheless, I do compost, but I do so on my terms.

I built two composting bins. Each bin is five feet wide, five feet deep, and four feet high. I built the bins by sinking 4î by 4î posts in the ground for the corners, and then nailed 2 by 4ís and 1 by 4ís, alternating on the sides.

I left 2î gaps between the boards for air circulation. The 2 by 4ís are rigid enough to keep the sides from bowing out, and in between each 2 by 4 I used 1 by 4ís to save a little money. The bins are only 3 sided, I left the front of the bins open so they can be filled and emptied easily. Photos of my compost bins are on this page: http://www.freeplants.com\composting.htm

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Non-Edible Composting Items

Non-Edible Composting Items
Non-Edible Composting Items

In addition to the acceptable food scraps you can use to compost there are many different
organic items you can add too. Some of the items on the list may surprise you while
others will be ones you have heard of before. Just remember, by composting these items
you are reducing the amount of waste that your home produces.

Additional Composting Materials:

* Lint collected from your dryer
* Cardboard, cut into strips or small pieces
* Hair, make sure that is isn’t put in as one large clump
* Manure (from a horse, pig, or cow)
* Tree leaves, cutting or chipping them helps them break down faster
* Newspaper (considered brown food), cut into strips. Do not use the glossy pages
and do not add too much (it can dry out the pile)
* Pine needles and pine cones
* Coffee grounds and paper filter
* Sawdust and wood chips (or shavings) as long as it is from untreated wood.
* Straw – even better if it is used straw from horse bedding
* Grass clippings (green food)
* Seaweed or algae (you can get these from your home aquarium)

There are a few considerations to think about when choosing from the above list of items.
If you do use dryer lint, it would be wise to only use it from cycles when you washed
clothes with natural fibers man-made fibers would not breakdown in your compost. If
you are using your compost for your garden be extra careful that everything you add has
not been treated such as grass clippings. If any type of commercial fertilizer or
pesticide has been sprayed on the grass do not add it to your compost bin. Larger items
should be broken down as much as possible to speed up their decomposition.

Misconceptions Surrounding Composting

Misconceptions Surrounding Composting
Misconceptions Surrounding Composting

Composting can benefit your garden and the planet (when done on a large scale) in many
ways. A lot of people may shy away from composting because of some common myths
or misconceptions. Listed below are some of the most common untruths followed by the
real information.

* Composting is creating new dirt. Actually composting is not dirt, soil, or earth
but it is humus  decayed matter that provides nutrients to soil.
* It takes a lot of time and effort to compost. Once you have your compost bin set-
up all you will only have to add new materials and turn or rotate the piles once in
a two day period.
* Having a compost is too smelly. If your compost bin has a bad odor, something is
wrong. You need to ensure there is enough air circulation and the right
combination of green and brown foods.
* If I have a compost in my back yard, animals are going to come and dig through
it. If you have a cover for your compost bin and ensure a good layer of brown
food (at least one inch) is on the top you will not have any animal control
problems.
* If I donít measure the exact ratio of green to brown food it will not work.
Composting is not an exact science if you add more green food one week and then
balance it out with additional brown food the next week ñ that is fine. You will
be able to tell with time what your compost pile is lacking or needing.

Composting is easy, environmentally friendly, and an inexpensive way to fertilize your
lawn, garden, or house plants. With some time and patience your mature compost will be
ready to use anywhere from one month to one year.

Different Types of Composting

The most common way to compost organic material into usable fertilizer is to make use
of the naturally occurring microbes to use the material as food and energy. Other than
ensuring your pile has enough water, food, and air you can leave the rest of the job to the
ever helpful fungi and bacteria.

The types of microbes you want to inhabit your composter are aerobic, meaning they
need oxygen to thrive and live. You can make sure they have enough air by aerating the
compost heap (turning it over with a rake). Another way to ensure there is good air
circulation is to add a material such as wood chips or hay both are bulky and are not
easily compressed. This makes sure the air can get in and do its job.

The other kind of microbes that can convert your waste are anaerobic (they do not need
oxygen to survive). This may sound like a great alternative not having to worry if
enough air is available. But the unpleasant side effect of having anaerobic microbes in
your compost bin is the smell. Without enough air, there will be a distinct rotting
garbage smell emanating from your bin.

Another way to compost is to use red worms to help decompose the organic waste. This
form of composting is known as vermicomposting. The red earthworms can quickly turn
your table scraps into compost. To help the process along it is recommended that you
chop or cut the organic material you add to the composter first. This is an optional step
but will yield faster results. Only food scraps, paper or yard waste is recommended for
this type of composting. You can purchase the red worms at your local pet or fishing
supply store – these are not the same worms that you find crawling in your backyard.

The Pros of composting Versus the Cons

There are obviously downsides to composting or everyone would be utilizing this
resource instead of buying commercial fertilizers and other lawn care additives. The
downside is the time it takes to upkeep, the space to house a composting bin and the
amount of time before your first mature compost will be ready.

The benefits of composting far outweigh the downside. For the time you invest, the
space you give up in your yard and some patience you and your yard will get:

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Store-Bought Fertilizer versus Mature Compost

You may wonder what the different benefits are between fertilizer purchased from the
store and compost humus that you make at home. The aim of both is the same, to
improve the quality of your garden, lawn, and soil but there are differences too.

Many fertilizers that you purchase at your garden center contain artificial or toxic
elements to make your lawn look nice ñ not necessarily healthier. The benefit of this
type of fertilization is the ability to purchase a mix that meets the needs of your specific
lawn. If your lawn is too dry, patchy, or has a lot of weeds ñ there is a product available
that can target each problem (be aware that a pesticide is part of this solution). If you are
using a commercial mix in your garden, read all labels carefully to ensure the product is
safe to use around vegetation that is going to be consumed.

In contrast, when you use compost humus as a fertilizer there isnít a lot you can do to
customize the end result. But the good thing is, you donít really need to. Mature
compost is a process that occurs naturally (in a forest, the leaves on the ground are
composted with only help from Mother Nature). The compost contains a wide range of
benefits for your lawn that do not involve chemicals.

It will really depend on your personal preference whether or not you use commercial
fertilizer or compost. If you like the idea of using compost but not the idea of making it
yourself you can purchase the compost from some gardening centers. Also contact your
cityís recycling department, they may have a program set-up that allows residents to
donate food and other organic waste for composting and then share in the mature
compost when it is ready.