Compost, or humus, is plant or animal matter, broken down into a brown, fluffy, organic material, which naturally forms at a rate of about an inch a century! Of course, through different techniques, gardeners are able to help nature along at a faster rate. Depending on how quickly you want to develop compost, the techniques can be simple or more involved. A corner of the garden works well for composting, but without some kind of enclosure, the compost pile can be somewhat unattractive, and, you also run the risk of scattering compost debris over the yard.
Some gardeners choose to use a wire enclosure, such as fencing, to keep compost confined while some gardeners choose something a little more attractive such as a compost bin. Compost bins can be purchased at most Home Improvement stores or online.
You will find that compost bins come in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices. They can be simple or elaborate, depending on the amount of money you want to spend. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you may choose to build your own compost bin. Remember to leave air spaces or gaps to allow for air circulation, this encourages microorganisms to multiply. The information below will help you decide which method best suits your needs.
Slow and Easy Composting
This method takes one to two years to develop into compost. If time is not an issue, then making compost the slow and easy way is right for you. This method is labeled easy, because it naturally does the work for you, all you have to do is add weeds, grass clippings, leaves, kitchen scraps and even bones with meat! The meat will decompose, providing rich nitrogen, there is no need to worry about rodents, the heat from the compost will keep animals away. Discard bones when all traces of meat are gone. Gardeners have different opinions on the use of meat products. The decision is yours.
The fast method of composting is a little more hands on. Like the slower method, toss in leaves, grass clippings, sticks and small branches, kitchen scraps and any debris that will decompose. Shred all debris into small pieces, this helps the matter break down faster.
Tips to speed up composting:
- Occasionally, you will need to throw soil onto the compost pile. This increases the number of microorganisms.
- Keep organic matter moist, not wet. The pile will not break down correctly if it’s allowed to dry out.
- From time to time, sprinkle a handful of fertilizer onto the pile.
- Turn the compost pile occasionally, but no more than once a week. Mixing up the organic matter keeps everything moist, while supplying new oxygen to the microorganisms.
The compost will heat up as it begins to break down. The hotter the compost gets, the better it is working to kill weed seeds and bacteria. As materials break down, do not be surprised to find that your large pile of organic matter is now a fraction of what it was in the beginning. Depending on the materials used, you can expect to have compost in just three to eight weeks! Of course it is much faster running to the nearest store for a bag of compost, but making your own compost not only saves you money, but according to the EPA, composting provides a 50% savings over ordinary technological remedies for air pollution, water, and conventional soil problems.
The EPA lists many Environmental benefits to composting:
- Compost enriches poor soils.
- Compost helps prevent air pollution by diverting organic materials from the landfills, preventing the buildup of methane and leachate formulation.
- Compost helps cleanup contaminated soils, by absorbing odors and treating semivolatile and volatile organic compounds.
- Compost reduces the need for fertilizers,water and pesticides.
The EPA encourages all people to get involved in protecting our environment. We all want and need clean air to breath, water to drink, and our neighborhoods free of toxins. Our children, and all generations to come, depend on what we do today. Do your part by composting, it’s a great start!