Written by Kevin Rodrigues at Gardening Mentor.
Awesome. That’s the word to describe compost. And if you’re not using compost, you’re missing out. Why? Your plants won’t grow like you want them to. If they grow, they might not get the best fruits and flowers. And worst of all, they could be prone to horrible pests and diseases. Compost has beneficial ingredients that plants love. And good compost can help plants grow big, strong, and healthy. How does compost work it’s magic, you ask? Before I answer your question, let’s be clear what compost really is.
What is Compost?
It’s magic. The power of mother nature at its finest. Compost is the rich, dark, matter that is created when organic materials like plants, animals, and minerals decompose.
You can see the process of composting in nature. Walk into a forest and you’ll see organic matter like leaves, wood, and grass decompose into this rich, black material. When you make your own compost
, you just speed up the process with the right materials and techniques. It’s really hard to mess up making compost. Because any organic material left long enough will decompose and create compost. The trick is to make it fast enough and good enough for your garden plants.
How Does the Magic of Compost Help Your Plants?
Plants are like children. You need to nurture them, care for them, and give them the right nutrients. And the soil in your garden is an essential component to care for your plants. Adding compost to your soil will help turn it into a warm and healthy environment for your plants. The roots of your plants need air and moisture. Soil that contains good compost allows good air circulation. It retains sufficient moisture while draining out the excess. The soil containing compost ensures the roots grow strong and healthy. This protects the plant from stress factors like wind. The soil with good air circulation and moisture encourages the essential organisms like bacteria, insects, and worms to thrive. They make your soil fertile by adding more organic material to it.
Compost can help change the composition of your soil. If your soil is too sandy, it can’t retain moisture and the roots will die. If your soil is full of clay, it retains too much water and the roots will rot. But with the right amount of compost, sandy soil or clay soil will turn into the loamy soil that is a dream for gardeners.
The organic material in compost gives your plants a good amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen helps your plants grow healthy foliage, phosphorus is essential to growing healthy roots and stem, while potassium will protect your plants from disease. If your garden has good compost, you don’t need to worry about testing your soil and adding fertilizer to it. Good compost is made from a mix of organic materials. This means you don’t need to worry about the pH balance of the soil. The organic matter in the compost will ensure that the right balance is achieved.
What Are Some Materials That Make an Awesome Compost?
Making compost is easy. It’s collecting a bunch of organic matter and allowing them to decompose till you get a rich, dark, matter that is friable. But making good compost is a bit more work. You need to add the right organic materials in the right amount to your compost pile. The best way to do this is to add both green and brown organic materials in about 50:50 or 25:75 ratio. Green materials are things that add nitrogen to your compost pile such as grass clippings and kitchen waste. Brown materials are things that add carbon to your compost pile such as sawdust and wood ash.
1. Kitchen Waste
The best and easiest source of organic matter for your compost pile is kitchen waste.
But you do need to be a bit careful of what you add as part of such waste.
All kinds of fruit and vegetable matter are great as part of kitchen waste. But animal fat and oil are not recommended.
The fat does not decompose very well. It also coats the fibrous material in the pile and does not allow them to decompose as well.
Whether you can add animal waste to your compost pile or not depends. If your neighbourhood does not allow it, you can’t. And even if it does, you need to be careful to protect it from rodents and flies.
The best you can do is to put it deep into your compost pile where they cannot reach.
2. Grass Clippings
This is another easy source of green material for your compost.
Grass clippings provide a good deal of nitrogen to your compost pile. The problem is if it’s green and does not get sufficient oxygen, you’ll end up with a soggy and smelly pile.
So make sure to dry your grass clippings in the sun before you add them to the compost pile. Or add them together with a mixture of dried leaves to balance out the pile.
You may want to avoid using chemical pesticides and fertilizers in your lawn. Or if you use them, allow the compost pile sufficient time so it can get rid of these chemicals before adding it to your soil.
Another easy source of organic matter for your compost pile is leaves.
They provide good nutrients to your compost but have one problem. They take a while to decompose.
You can reduce this time by drying them out and shredding them up before adding to the compost pile.
If you’re lazy, you can just let them fall in your yard. Then shred them up with your lawn mower and let them decompose on the yard itself before adding to your compost pile.
You may have newspapers lying around the house which makes a good addition to the compost pile.
They don’t add a lot of nutrients to the pile but provide it a good texture.
Make sure to shred them up before adding to the compost because newspaper takes time to decompose.
Let it remain in the compost pile long enough so that the heat can evaporate the dyes used in the paper.
5. Pine Needles
Another easy and good source of organic matter for your compost is pine needles.
They don’t provide a lot of nutrients to the pile but are good for adding the right texture.
They take a while to break down and may make the compost pile a bit acidic. But when used in the right quantity along with other materials they make a good compost pile.
It might seem like a bad idea to add weeds to your compost pile. But they are a good source of organic matter if you use them correctly.
You need to make sure the temperature in your compost pile reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit so that it kills the weed seeds.
And you can put the weeds at the center of the pile where the temperature gets high. If they are at the top of the pile, the weed seeds can germinate in the compost itself.
Hay is a good source of nutrients for your compost pile and you can get them from a farm.
The important thing is to get weathered hay that is the gray hay already in a decomposing condition and unfit for animal consumption.
If you can only get unweathered hay, just use a little bit of it in the compost pile because it needs a lot of nitrogen to break down.
Ash provides some good nutrients to your compost pile.
But you cannot use ash from burning coal as that is toxic. You need to get the ash by burning wood or plant matter like fruit or vegetable peels.
This ash is a good source of potassium and phosphorus for your compost pile. You do need to add several layers of this to your pile as the potassium tends to get washed away in the rain.
9. Ground Stone and Shells
Ground stones provide a lot of minerals to your compost. The problem is getting them ground fine enough for the pile.
You can also grind clam, lobster, and crab to get a rich source of calcium carbonate for your compost pile.
Seaweed is a great material for the compost because it decomposes easily and contains a ton of nutrients.
This includes potassium, boron, iodine, magnesium, calcium, and sodium.
You can also use it to top off your compost because it acts as an insulating layer in the cold season.
It’s a gift from Mother Nature. You can grow the strong, healthy, and bountiful plants you want. And you can do this without using chemicals that are toxic to the environment. Choose the right organic materials and make the compost your garden needs. It’s time to make awesome. And be awesome.