Rich moist compost is every garden’s favorite food, and if you’ve ever ordered a load for home delivery, you’ve discovered that it’s a premium price for just that reason. But composting is easy and fun for DIY, and you may be surprised at what you can throw in the pile.
Do not let the fact that you do not have an expensive prefabricated compost track your efforts. You can easily build your own composter from scrap wood or metal. Even a loose pile will work so start small, but start!
The right combination
Composting is about combining natural ingredients that can be broken down and turned into nutritious dirt that can be used to replenish the next round of gardening. This means that what you put in the compost pile should be valuable as part of your future plant food.
Simply put, you need a balance between brown and green objects. We are not necessarily talking about color here, but rather about the type of object. This means that you want certain brown objects such as small twigs and green material such as grass clippings.
The most obvious brown material is bark and sticks. Just make sure to make them small so that they break faster. Turning them into chips or bark works best. You may not realize that paper is another valuable food for your compost. Think of objects in your home that most closely resemble the tree they came from. Avoid bleached and chemically treated materials, but throw in toilet paper rolls, paper bags, non-waxy paper plates, cardboard, newspaper, coffee filters, paper towels, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, cones, acorns, napkins and sheets.
Paper can also go in the compost bin, but avoid recycled paper, which should instead go out with your household recycling. Again, the closer the original shape of the material is, the better it is for your garden.
Like materials that come from trees, you can also include products made from other plants. Cotton is a good example, but includes only organic cotton without dyes. Cotton balls, strips of sheets and old shirts all make the cut. In the same way, hemp, jute and sackcloth can all be added to the pile.
Grass clippings provide important nutrients to the mix, but make sure your layers are thin and consistent for the best compost recipe. You can also include hay and bedding from herbivorous animals such as guinea pigs along with the waste. Do not include manure from dogs and cats. Be sure to recycle your garden plants back into composting when the harvest is complete. Corn husks and stems, tomato plants, herbs, flowers and other living plants are just a few examples.
A warning here is to avoid putting diseased plants in the mixture. Although the heat of the composting process eliminates many forms of bacteria and diseases, it is possible to transfer last year’s problems to next year’s crops.
Finally, take advantage of your food waste. The compost heap loves eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit pits, vegetable stalks, banana peels, onion peels, nut shells, cereals, tea and basically all non-animal, natural products.
The truth is that all natural materials will degrade eventually, even if you do not have the perfect location, the right amount of moisture or an exact ingredient combination. However, your compost pile will work better with attention to creating somewhat equal layers and cutting material in fairly consistent sizes. For example, a whole pumpkin takes longer to break down than one that is cut into a dozen pieces. The same goes for citrus, branches, etc.
There are some other household items that you may not have considered suitable for the compost heap. Dry food is an example. You can also add firebox as long as the wood you burned was chemical free. In other words, avoid the ashes from debris burns, but throw them away from the fireplace.
Loofahs and natural mushrooms are another little known ingredient. When cleaning the house, also feel free to empty the swept dirt, dust and even pet hair into the pile. You can even put in your full vacuum bag, as long as the contents are mostly dust and dirt, rather than legos and Barbie shoes.