- The How-To Compost Guide for City Dwellers | Zipcar
- An Easy Guide to Start Composting At Home
- Why should I compost?
- Composting Tips and Strategies
The How-To Compost Guide for City Dwellers | Zipcar
Because microbes are the work force behind the transformation of waste materials into a usable soil amendment, one needs to ensure that a good variety of digester microbes go into the mix. Many regions are historically deficient in certain minerals. Here in eastern Washington, the soil is typically deficient in selenium, so even if we use vetch — a selenium accumulator — as one of our ingredients, our compost will still most likely be deficient in this important trace mineral. The addition of a broad-spectrum mineral source such as rock powder or seaweed is good insurance against any possible nutrient deficiencies when building compost.
This simple addition may have saved an organic fresh-market vegetable farmer who contacted us several years ago, desperately seeking help for his failing crops. An Extension agent from the local university had diagnosed his problem as some unknown virus, and not being a regular client of ours, he had no soil test to give us any clues. What Bruce Tainio found when he arrived at the farm was not a virus, but a crop of nearly dead plants with all of the classic symptoms of manganese deficiency, which was later confirmed by a tissue test.
With all of that, how could his soil be deficient in manganese? Tainio explained that the soils in and around this coastal farm community were typically deficient in manganese, and therefore any local materials he used for compost would not supply him with adequate supplies. The few sick and nutritionally deficient vegetables that survived were harvested and sent to market, where the consumer paid premium prices for what they assumed to be healthy food. A happier story concerns the Findhorn Garden community founded in the s, and how a free and abundant supply of seaweed from a nearby beach was instrumental in turning a wind-blown patch of sand where nothing would grow into a rich and productive Garden of Eden.
Perhaps if the farmer with manganese problems had known of and taken inspiration from the story of the legendary Findhorn Garden, his own story might have turned out differently. First, once you have collected your ingredients, chop or shred your materials as much as possible. All places in the stems, skins or leaves that have exposed or open areas are places that provide entry points for the digester microbes, so the finer the material, the faster the digestion process. The largest pieces of stem and stalk will be the slowest to decay. Mix the chopped materials uniformly.
One important key to successful composting is moisture. The material should be moist but not soggy. Green materials usually provide all or most of the moisture the compost needs. Turning will cause much of the moisture to steam off, so in dry weather it may be necessary to add some water.
Remember, however, that excessive water can drive oxygen out of your compost, leach nutrients, and lower the temperature — so water sparingly and only when necessary. Other important elements for rapid composting are frequent aeration and appropriate temperatures. The first turning should be made on the second day after the compost is built; again on the fifth day, then again on the seventh day and once more on the eleventh day.
During the process, monitor the temperature of your compost daily.
If it gets too hot, turn the pile more often. At this point your compost should be finished and ready to apply. Fresh compost is rich with living energy and should be used quickly.
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If it is left to age in the pile, the microbe population will gradually dwindle or turn anaerobic. To revive compost that has been stored too long, just mix in a little microbe digester product before you apply it. A good idea when using commercial, bagged compost, too, whether for soil application or tea brewing. For example, having excessive amounts of nitrogen materials causes an excess of ammonia-smelling gas to be released when the compost is turned.
If this happens, just add more carbohydrate material to correct the balance. Keep in mind, however, that it is better to add too much nitrogen-rich material than to not have enough to heat the decomposing matter. Heat is needed to augment microbial activity as well as to kill weed seeds, parasites and pathogens, and to digest any toxic chemicals. This became a problem a few years ago for a large commercial composting operation in our area. The composting plant had failed to provide the right combinations of elements to ensure proper temperatures and microbial numbers.
The objective is to promote aerobic oxygen-rich digestion of your materials. A liability in composting is the unexpected introduction of new weed seeds to your garden. Weed seeds in compost are a nuisance because once the compost is transferred to your garden beds, the compost acts to fertilize the weeds and make them even more persistent!
With home compost bins or piles, the way to eliminate weed seeds is twofold:. If you are buying bedding for animals, or using mulch or carbon-rich material to bulk up your compost pile, be aware of introducing seeds to your garden via the compost. For example, make sure to get straw, and not hay, since straw is mostly weed-free. Ask the sales staff if there have been any complaints about seeds in these products. Below are a few samples. To see all the composters in our store: Click Here. Shop Learn Our Story Composting How to make nutrient-rich, garden 'gold' in the composter that will help your garden thrive.
Read Guide Shop Products. Compost is the single most important supplement you can give your garden. It's also free, easy to make, and good for the environment. But composting also has other benefits. Composting Benefits Soil Conditioner With compost, you are creating rich humus for your lawn and garden. Introduces Beneficial Organisms to the Soil Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use, and ward off plant disease.
Good for the Environment Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers when applied to lawns and garden beds.
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Reduces Landfill Waste Most landfills in North America are quickly filling up; many have already closed down. What to Compost What you can put into your compost will depend somewhat on what kind of composter you have, but some general rules do apply. Do not compost meat, bones, or fish scraps they will attract pests unless you are using a composter designed specifically for this purpose.
An Easy Guide to Start Composting At Home
Avoid composting perennial weeds or diseased plants, since you might spread weed seeds or diseases when spreading your compost. Banana peels, peach peels, and orange rinds may contain pesticide residues and should be kept out of the compost.
Black walnut leaves should not be composted. Sawdust may be added to the compost, but should be mixed or scattered thinly to avoid clumping. Be sure sawdust is clean, with no machine oil or chain oil residues from cutting equipment.
Why should I compost?
A Word About Yard Waste With yard and garden wastes, different composting materials will decompose at different rates, but they will all break down eventually. Composting Leaves If you have too many leaves to incorporate into the compost bin, you can simply compost the pile of leaves by itself. How to Compost Start your compost pile on bare earth.
This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds. Lay twigs or straw first , a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile. Add compost materials in layers , alternating moist and dry.
Composting Tips and Strategies
Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down. Add manure , green manure clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings or any nitrogen source.
This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along. Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job. Cover with anything you have — wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain.