You’ve probably heard about composting, whether it was from a friend, in a magazine or maybe you saw our Pinterest board. You may have even considered trying it, but do you actually know what composting is?
Well we’ve done our research, so you’ll know a little more before you dive in. We’ll tell you what it is, how to do it, and why you should be composting.
Compost is a mixture of various decaying organic substances, such as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil. Sounds gross, right?
As gross as it might seem to us, plants love it and it is an amazing food source for them. But if you want to make your plants happy, and make sure you don’t end up with a smelly mess, you’ll need the correct mixture of ingredients for your compost.
Let’s start with the basics. For your efforts to be successful, you need to make sure your compost pile has adequate oxygen and moisture levels, and the right balance of carbon and nitrogen. All of these things can be achieved by simply paying attention to the ingredients you’re using.
Because the microorganisms in your compost pile are working to break down all of your ingredients, you need to make sure they have the right conditions:
The ideal moisture level of your compost pile should be about 50 percent. To test it, grab a handful of compost (we suggest putting a glove on first) after you apply water and squeeze to see if a lot of water drips out. If so, it’s best to add some dry materials to balance it out.
It’s extremely important to maintain oxygen levels if you want to avoid a smelly mess. Remember to add dry ingredients that contain oxygen, such as a small branch, to create air pockets. It’s also important to regularly turn your pile every week or two by using a compost tumbler. If you can’t physically turn your pile, use air tubes that are placed throughout the pile. You can drill small holes into plastic pipes for a cheap but effective solution.
Carbon and nitrogen
Carbon gives energy and growth to your pile, so the microorganisms can do their job. Nitrogen is used for protein and reproduction. Both are highly important, but it’s just as important to not overuse these ingredients. They can be balanced by ensuring that there is a greater amount of carbon materials than nitrogen materials.
Examples of carbon-containing ingredients: straw, shredded cardboard, dried leaves, tissue paper, wood ashes, and more.
Examples of nitrogen-containing ingredients: coffee grounds, manures, kitchen scraps, hair and fur, and more.
Do these ingredients sound like things you currently have around the house, probably at the bottom of your trash can? That’s great! They’re all items you would just be throwing away, but now you get to reuse them and turn them into plant food.
Before you start gathering ingredients, though, make sure you have the right tools. You can look online for compost tumblers and bins, or make your own! Our Pinterest board has DIY projects for composting, great product suggestions that you might want to purchase, and more tips and ideas on what to compost and what not to compost.
Aside from the fact that your plants and garden will thrive and yield healthier blooms and produce, composting has some serious environmental benefits. Since our compostable ingredients are mostly materials we use every day in our homes, anything we put into our compost bin is just one more thing diverted from landfills. It reduces your garbage collection bills, and for municipalities, reduces the money used to transport and dispose of waste.
Once the compost is in your soil, it acts as an all-natural fertilizer. Your plants will get the important nutrients they need and you won’t have to buy expensive fertilizers anymore.
The average U.S. household generates 650 pounds of compostable materials each year, and 60 percent of everything that goes into a landfill could be composted. That’s a lot of plants and gardens that are missing out on some good compost, wouldn’t you agree?
You, your family and your friends should be composting, not just for your garden, but for the environment as well.