09 March 2012

Saturdays in The Garden: Compost 101

If you're an avid gardener, this is probably old news for you. 
If you're fairly new or don't even plan to garden, I hope you'll find
some good info in the following quick course.

The answer to your garden question is "Compost."
Yes, I realize you haven't asked one yet but,
that's still the answer. 
I actually say this when people start talking
"garden" with me.  I've seen too many new
gardeners try to skip composting...and then,
at the end of the season, wonder why things didn't
go so well.  Yes, it really is that important.
(Furthermore, establishing great soil takes more than one season.)
I like to approach gardening like I approach health.
Preventive medicine is always best.
So start a compost pile if you haven't already!

You don't have to be a gardener to use compost.
Healthy compost can replace harmful chemical fertilizers for:
1)  Around trees and shrubs
2) Lawn
3)  Flower beds
4) House plants
Start a pile in a small corner of your yard.  Hide it with shrubs if you
prefer; I have never noticed a smell from our compost pile, btw,
so this should not be an issue.  It's free and healthy/organic.  I personally
think it's crazy that more people don't do this!  We are all called
to be responsible stewards of the land. 
(I'm so feeling like a hippie right now...)

(2009:  Brussel sprout plant.  Soil looking good there!)
Compost should be fully decomposed before
applying to garden.*
Keep in mind that waste that is not fully decomposed
will raise your soil temperature.  Heat is given off
during the decomposition process--definitely an issue
during the summer months when temps are rising
The decomposition process also uses the nutrients
in your soil, taking them away from your plants. 
*Here I will admit there have been plenty of times that I have added dry leaves,
etc. to my garden in the early spring for convenience sake--heat wasn't an issue
and the soil seemed healthy enough to share.  Sometimes it's just easier when
doing the yard's spring clean-up to take the waste directly to the garden.  
(2009--The 2 smaller sections of my garden)
Compost balances and replenishes the soil.
My garden is a huge testament to this.  Once
upon a time, it was hard, full of clay and full of weeds.
Ten years later, I'm proud of what it's become.
Balanced soil also helps keep weeds and pests
away, plants are healthier and are less
susceptible to disease.  
Always put back what you take out.  I use every
single spot of my garden, sometimes for 2 or
even 3 crops per year (rotating).  Take the amount of
plants you grow every year.  That's how much you are
taking out of your garden every year, too.  Replenish this!

(2011:  Herbs, picked fresh for dinner)

What Goes In My Compost Pile
All yard waste
Except anything that has a history of disease
(like our eunonymous shrubs); I also never put tomato plants in
the compost--they are so susceptible to disease and require constant
crop rotation.  In my opinion, it's just not a good idea to "feed"
the old ones to the new ones.  A well-run compost pile probably
kills this off but...why risk it? 
Shredded Paper
Shred all of your paperwaste.  You'll be amazed at how much
this cuts back on what you're sending to the landfill!  Avoid glossy
papers--ie, ads, magazines.  I've read these inks contain chemicals that
you don't want in your garden. 
All kitchen scraps
All vegetables, most fruits, coffee grounds, tea, etc.
Just remember:  *no meats/fats or citrus fruits*. 
If you are worried about attracting "critters," just bury this
waste a little and they should leave it alone.
Ashes From Fireplace
Keep this to a minimum though--you can get too much.
Saw Dust, Wood Shavings, Chipped Tree Mulch
If you know a carpenter, your set. 
We bought a chipper-shredder several years ago. 
All of our small limbs (and bigger yard waste) go through here first.
I haven't seen anything create great soil as much as wood can.
Again, how much we can keep from the landfills!
Old Potting Soil
In the fall, I dump all of my outdoor pots into the pile.
Cow, Horse or Chicken Manure
Be careful that all animal waste "cures" a good 6 months
in your compost pile--you do NOT want this directly on
your lettuce, for example.  One word: salmonella.
All that aside, this stuff is gold.
Ask friends and family
If someone is bagging their leaves or grass clippings, ask for them!
This is gold, too--think of it as free dirt.  If you've ever priced out
a truck-load of topsoil, you'll know where I'm coming from.
Good quality soil
If you end up with dirt from a project (ie, planting a tree), always
put it in the compost.  This soil contains the ingredients your compost
pile needs to break everything down.  It's really helpful to mix
this in on a regular basis, especially if you don't turn your pile often.
And so much more!

 Happy gardening!

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

sew many ways


annemarie said...

This was a most informative post - I have learned so much and I must say I find all this so very interesting! Thanks for sharing - maybe there is hope for our Texas clay soils.

regan said...

I love composting.....I feel so good about our tiny little bag going to the dump twice a month. We use the shredded paper in the compost, too, and it's awesome! I've not heard of the 'citrus' rule....why is that?

The last few years, we've really been canning up a storm. Last year we put up over 70 pints of salsa alone (all but the garlic from our own garden), 40+ pints of sweet corn, 50+ green beans, and several pickle types. Yum!

Thanks for getting the word out on composting.....it's so important!

At Rivercrest Cottage said...

great info on composting. I've been meaning to start a bin, but kept putting it off. your info will help me get going as I'll always think free soil when I try to throw shredded paper or coffee grounds, etc., out.

Dogwood Lane Rambles said...

Between my compost bucket and my chicken scrap bucket we have nothing for the garbage disposer to do. Love my compost pile.

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