Compost is a great tool for any gardener. It helps your garden hold just the right amount of water, makes it the right texture for optimal plant growth, and provides it with beneficial natural organisms. While you can buy several different types of compost products at a retail store or gardening center, it’s much cheaper to make your own compost. Not only will you save money, you also get the added benefit of knowing that you’re not just throwing your yard waste away; it’s actually doing something beneficial for your garden and for your health.
Before getting started on building your compost pile, you should know what to put in it. To get good compost you need four elements: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water. Grass clippings from your yard provide the carbon. Nitrogen comes from leaves in the fall. To make sure your pile gets water, build it somewhere where it will be rained on; just be sure it’s not completely soaked with water. Lastly, you can add oxygen simply by mixing the pile regularly. Just turn the soil over once a month with a rake or garden shovel. Don’t worry if you can’t provide enough nitrogen or carbon to your compost pile through your yard waste, you can always add a little fertilizer. The type of fertilizer you select will depend on what nutrient you’re lacking.
There are two different types of compost piles you can make; the first is a cool pile. To make a cool pile, simply throw your clippings and leaves in the bin as they come and stir the ingredients occasionally. This is a good option if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to composting, but it takes about a year to get usable compost. You shouldn’t add diseased plants or weeds to this mixture because they can be harmful to the soil quality and weeds will continue to grow once they’re back in your garden.
If you’re anxious and just can’t wait of if you need your compost in a shorter time span, you should try making a hot compost pile. Unlike cool piles, you need to have a significant amount of yard waste available to start a hot pile; at least 3 feet by 3 feet. This mixture will require mixing much more often. You can mix it anywhere from once every two weeks to once every couple of days. The more you mix, the more you break down your yard waste, the faster you get compost. This type of pile will kill weed seeds and diseases because it reaches much higher temperatures (about 160Â°), but be aware that it may also kill beneficial bacteria. A cool compost is a much better solution.
Another alternative is to check with your local city councilor to see if your region hosts Community Days. Community Days are growing in popularity in the United States and Canada. Hosted twice each year (usually Spring & Fall), Community Days often ask citizens to bring their recycling items, unwanted clothing and used electronics to a central location for collection & re-distribution. The last five years, Community Days have also included bag your own compos services. Free compost is available. Anyone with a shovel and bucket can tote away as much compost as they can carry.
It’s easy to know when your compost pile is ready for use. When your compost pile no longer resembles what you put into it, when it smells like good clean “dirt” it’s ready to be used. Just mix into your soil for strong, healthy plants.