I don’t have a large yard, but it’s mine. By composting, I’m improving my little corner of the planet. With just a bit of work you can have healthier soil which will come back to you ten-fold in the form of tastier and more plentiful veggies and more abundant and beautiful flowers. It’s great to be able to bite into a freshly picked tomato, bean or pepper knowing exactly what went into them. It’s a good feeling knowing that you’re not putting chemicals on your edibles.
Home composting can be the cornerstone of a beautiful, healthy garden. Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It’s an easy way to turn your fruit, vegetable and yard waste into a dark, rich, sweet smelling soil conditioner. Approximately 30% of the waste stream in the US comes from food and yard waste. Composting helps divert a huge portion of my family’s waste from landfills, and my garden gets back some lovely compost in return.
Worms are a great indicator of the health of your soil. Here are a couple of wrigglers I found in my compost heap.
Composting is super easy! Your compost heap needs just four things: Browns, greens, air and water.
- Browns: Dry materials, like wood chips, dried leaves, grass and other plants. Anything crunchy and dry.
- Greens: Fresh moist materials like grass cuttings and food scraps. If you are putting in food scraps, make sure you cover them up with other greens or browns so your pile doesn’t become a buffet for the local wildlife. Also avoid greasy foods, like meat or cheese, which will start to stink pretty fast.
- Air: Turning the compost pile helps aerobic microorganisms break down organic matter faster. Turning basically means emptying it out into a new pile, where what was once on top, is now on the bottom, and what was on the bottom is now on the top. The more often you turn your pile, the faster your old stuff will become your new compost. Compost will happen even if you never touch your pile. Turning it just makes it go faster. I try to turn my pile about once a week during the growing season.
- Water: Keeping your pile as moist as a wrung out sponge keeps things moving along. I sprinkle mine with a hose a couple of times a week during the hot months, mostly around the edges where it tends to dry out. If you live in an area with a lot of rain, you may not need to water your pile very often.
The great thing about composting is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can create great compost on a shoestring. All you really need is a place to put your heap. You can make compost in an open pile, or use a bin to keep things tidier. There are lots of composting bins on the market. I have two kinds, a plastic bin, and a bin I made out of chicken wire.
My plastic bin is a Smith and Hawken Biostack. It’s rodent resistant and its stacking design makes it easy to turn my pile. Because it’s made of black plastic, it’s supposed to keep the heat in so your stuff composts faster. It’s a bit pricy, but I got a huge discount through my county. Check with your county waste department to see if they offer any specials, you never know…
I made my other bin. The University of Kentucky, Cooperative Extension has easy instructions for building your own wire bin. For this kind of bin, you need some poultry netting (I got mine at Home Depot. It comes in a 3 ft x 10 ft roll.) and plastic tie wraps (The instructions call for wire, but plastic tie wraps are so much easier to use, and you don’t need tin snips.) It's easy to make, cheap and totally does the job of keeping your compost heap tidy.
So, get out there and build yourself a compost heap. You and your garden will be glad you did.
What do you do with all of your yard waste and kitchen scraps?
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