As you may have read in a previous article, there are lots of chores to do even during the cold months in your garden. I just recently turned my compost for the umpteenth time and was thinking about the importance, benefits, and plain awesomeness that come with composting. And because I was turning the compost and then thinking about it I thought I’d share these tidbits with you.
Benefits of Composting
Here’s where the saving green and being green comes into play. When material is composted down, it becomes highly fertile. What starts out as grass clippings, leaves, and kitchen scraps ends up being this rich, black, menagerie of stuff that is magic for growing things. I mix it into my garden beds, and this year (if I have enough) I’lll rake it into my grass to green it up. Well composted organic material can replace your fertilizer needs and since compost is made of stuff that you would normally be throwing out, mulching up, or just bagging up anyway, its free!!! There are some environmental benefits too. First, you avoid using chemical fertilizers. Second, you reduce waste at landfills. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of landfill waste is organic matter. It can take an exponentially longer time for organic material to break down in a landfill than in a compost bin, so that organic matter that you add to the trash sits in landfills for a long, long time. With the elimination of organic matter from landfills frees up more room for all those Milli Vanilli records that you shamefully have held on to for all these years. (Just kidding, greenies, there are uses for those too.) Also, compost can be used to remediate soil that’s been contaminated by prior toxins, which hey is pretty cool in my book.
Materials Needed To Compost
Outside of a rake and a shovel, and of course organic material, there is very little you need. Some people have special composters, but I built one out of some old pallets that were going to be recycled, and a lady I know just uses some old chicken wire that she has tied into a large circle. The key is to allow air to flow all around the pile to help with the decomposition.
The What and the How
The beauty of composting is that nearly everything plant-y or that was made from plant-y materials can be composted, including paper and cardboard. Even manure can be, although I recommend that you use the poo only from animals that are vegetarians. Carnivore poo can carry diseases that can transfer into the soil. The best compost is a balance of matter that is high in carbon – like leaves, straw, sawdust, and such; and matter that is high in nitrogen – like coffee grounds, manure, and grass clipping. The best ratio is somewhere between 25:1 and 30:1, carbon to nitrogen, which I know can be tough to calculate while you’re cutting up your lettuce – but just think, more tree, less grass!
There are a couple more things you may want to know, too. Compost generally does not stink, a plus. It works faster if you turn it often and if you water it often, which I know is a little weird. But, hey, weird has never stopped me before. Give it a try. Done right, compost will green up your lawns, trees, and vegetables. It’s the original miracle-gro!