Organic compost gives soil all the nutrients it needs so you can grow healthy, vigorous plants and vegetables. Although you can buy compost from any garden center, it is cheaper and easier to make your own from organic matter. You can make compost from grass trimmings, leaves, old fruit and veg, eggshells, and even old newspaper. Maintaining a compost pile gives you a never-ending supply of nourishment for your garden.
There are many reasons for creating compost for an organic garden. Researchers at the University of California reported on some of the benefits of organic compost. For example, compost boosts micronutrients in the soil, reduces soil erosion, increases microbial activity, and even helps with reducing carbon in the atmosphere.
In this article, you will find out how to make compost and what is the best compost material.
Types of Composting
There are two methods of creating compost—cold composting and hot composting. The difference between these two types is the speed at which organic matter breaks down into use able organic matter.
As the name suggests, hot composting uses heat that naturally occurs in a compost pile to decompose organic matter. Using a ratio of two-parts carbon to one-part nitrogen allows things to heat up. When done correctly, a hot compost pile can reach temperatures of between 54°C and 60°C (130°F and 140°F) in 24 to 36 hours.
Carbon sources for a hot compost pile include “brown” items—dry fall leaves, shredded paper, and straw.
Nitrogen sources for making hot organic compost include “green” items—grass clippings, old fruit and vegetables, coffee grounds and tea bags, and farm manure.
The benefit of hot composting is summed up in one word—time. This method is the fastest way to make your own garden compost. However, making “hot” compost takes more effort than cold composting. The pile should always be damp, and you’ll need to turn it occasionally, and continually monitor the temperature.
After two to eight weeks, you should have a high-quality, organic matter to feed your plants and vegetable patch.
Creating a cold pile is the easiest way to make compost to feed organic soil. You only need to put your compostable matter in a pile and wait. It can take around one year to have organic material that you can use to nourish your vegetable garden.
One difference between hot composting and cold composting is that you can add weeds that have gone to seed to a hot pile. The heat breaks down all parts of the weeds and you don’t risk spreading these around your garden.
The Best Containers to Make Compost
When it comes to composting organic matter, you can choose from several options. You could create a pile somewhere in your garden where you deposit all garden and food waste. Or, you could choose between a compost bin or compost tumbler.
- Compost bins—One of the advantages of compost bins is their large capacity. Generally, the compostable matter is put in at the top and there is usually an opening at the bottom to get the compost out. With the bin method, it’s difficult to mix or turn the composting materials.
- Compost tumblers—Using a tumbler for composting allows you to turn the composting matter easily. The compost is made in a drum that you spin around a few times a week. Compost tumblers work well for hot composting and are easy to empty.
Best Compost Material
What are the best “ingredients” to create the perfect organic compost for gardens? The three main principles when it comes to adding material to a compost pile include the following:
- Brown matter to produce carbon.
- Green matter to create nitrogen.
- Moisture to help break down organic matter and develop compost.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that some of the best material to compost include:
- Vegetable peelings
- Fruit waste
- Teabags and coffee grinds
- Cardboard and paper
- Garden trimmings and cuttings
- Fallen leaves
- Wood chips
What not to Compost
There are certain things that that you should never compost. For example, don’t put in dairy products, human or pet waste (feces), meat or fish products, diseased plants, or perennial weeds.
The reason not to compost these items is that they either create odor problems and attract rodents, or they can harm your plants.
Steps to Make Compost
It is not difficult to make high-quality compost. The equipment you need for turning compost includes a pitchfork, shovel, and a garden hose—or another method of getting water in your compost heap. The best place for a compost pile is in a shady part of your garden.
5 steps to making compost for your garden:
- Add equal amounts of brown and green material, making sure you leave enough room to turn the compost.
- When adding to the pile, shred or chop ingredients into smaller pieces so that they decompose faster.
- Spray water on each layer of the compost to keep it moist, but not overly soggy.
- Turn the pile every three days to aerate the compost and keep the heat going.
- Monitor the temperature to make sure that it is at least 54°C (130°F).
As the compost develops, it will gradually turn dark and crumbly and the temperature will drop. You now have high-quality, organic compost to grow beautiful flowers and healthy fruit and vegetables in your garden.