Foundation For Your Garden: Soil Series Part 2 Composting

Gold . . . Think about it for a moment.  One definition of gold is:  something resembling gold; especially : something valued as the finest of its kind.    Everyday millions of people throughout the world throw "gold" in the trash.    Once you really understand the value of gold, you will never throw it in the trash again.   You are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about.  What does gold have to do with composting?  Well, the "gold" I am talking about is:

  • Vegetable, fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags
  • Lawn and house plant clippings
  • Cut flowers
  • Garden trimmings
  • Most weeds
  • Dried grass and leaves
  • Straw
  • Paper products, coffee filters, uncoated junk mail, newspapers
  • Bread, pasta and rice
  • Cardboard (cereal boxes, toilet paper and paper towel roll)
  • Saw dust

All of these items are used in your compost bin.  They are comprised of  four essential ingredients  in composting.

  • Nitrogen -- Greens -- kitchen scraps and grass
  • Oxygen -- Mix your pile
  • Water -- Keep pile moist
  • Carbon -- Browns -- leaves, straw, cardboard

Choose a set up option for composting.  You can make a pile, purchase an enclosed bin, use a trash can with holes, build a wooden or wire bin.  There are many options.  After you choose a bin and get it set up all you need to do is follow a few simple steps.

  • Remove the grass from the area where you will construct your compost pile to allow contents to have direct contact with soil microorganisms.
  • First layer --  three or four inches of chopped brush on top of soil surface.  This allows air circulation around the base of the heap.
  • Second layer -- six to eight inches of mixed scraps, leaves, grass clippings, etc.  Material should be sponge damp.
  • Third layer -- one inch of soil serves as an inoculant by adding microorganisms to the heap.
  • Repeat steps and top off with straw.

A properly made heap will reach temperatures of 140 - 160 degrees in four or five days.  You should begin to see the pile settling.   After five weeks or so, fork the material into a new pike turning the outside of the old heap into the center of the new pile.  Add water if necessary.    The compost should be ready in three months or so.   A heap started in late spring should be ready for use by autumn.  You can make compost even faster by turning the pile more often.  Check the internal temperature regularly.  When it decreases, turn pile again.  Compost is ready to use when it is dark brown, crumbly, and earthy smelling.  Turn your soil and apply one to three inches of compost and work it in well.

A few things to remember when creating a compost pile.  Never put meat, fats, dairy, and fish in your compost pile.   These items may attract animals, rodents, and produce quite a smell.   Same goes for pet poop.  Never add pet poop to  your compost.  It  would no longer be desirable of use on edible crops.

Did you know that 25% - 35% of your trash can be composted?  Save money by avoiding landfill costs and help the environment.    Never again throw your gold in the trash.  Start making  your own "Black Gold" today and reaping the rewards in a short period of time.

City Girl