Thursday, November 19, 2015

Garden Tip Thursday- Compost Basics

Hey, I know as gardeners we are always talking about compost and the benefits of it. I know there are lots of people who are interested in composting and have little or no experience with it, other than buying it in a bag at the big box stores. Others think that they don't have the time, area, or expertise to make a great compost. Or you've tried it and it just didn't work out the way you hoped.

I thought it would be a good idea break down the whole idea of composting. From where and how to compost to what can be composted, and them of course how to use it effectively in your garden.

So you want to compost but it seems more complicated than you originally thought. You love the idea that your kitchen waste won't be going to the landfill but it's so much more than that! You don't want to end up with a mess that you can't use or that just seems  to not be breaking down and you're left with a horrible buggy mess. I've seen it at friend's houses, they have great intentions and it's not a difficult process but to get a good result you have to follow a few guidelines.

 There are tons of sites telling you what to do and what not to do but how about kinds of compost to start with. Then you can figure out what actually suits your space and your waste.

Composting at it's main point is about recycling, turning waste into a great soil additive. Nature does it every day.  Organic materials in forest and our yards are processed everyday by the weather, fungus, bacteria and insects, and is turned into a beneficial component of soil.

Aerobic or Anaerobic Composting, which works best? Aerobic composting is done with oxygen, generally above ground or in a holding container that has air circulation. Anaerobic is done by microorganisms that don't need oxygen to survive and is generally considered as pit composting.

Determining which is best for you depends on what you have available and how quickly you want to be able to use your compost.

 Are you working on a new garden space, have plenty of time, or can't leave a pile of what could be smelly scraps next to your neighbors fence? Then a Anaerobic or pit compost would work best for you. And if you have the time to wait it's the easiest option. Dig a pit or trench in the area that can be left alone and dump in your kitchen scraps, leaves or garden wastes and cover back up with a good layer of soil. And that's it.

If you are constantly composting scraps and waste, looking for a quicker turn around or have the area to keep a pile Aerobic is the choice for you. This can be done just as a pile, confined in an area or with a tumbler. The catch is that the organisms that work this way need oxygen, so to keep the process moving at a good rate you will have to put in a bit of work. Turning the pile completely or stirring often is necessary to keep the air flow into the pile. Also to get air to the bottom you can build your pile on a pallet, this will ensure a steady aeration from the bottom. Another benefit of the Aerobic is the heat that it generates, which will often kill weed seeds before they can sprout or transfer to your garden in the soil.

When a compost pile is ready it should look like and have the consistency of dark brown soil.

Neither way is right or wrong, and both are benefits to your garden, your community and the environment. So pick a type and star composting!

In the next few weeks I'll be talking about types of composters available, what should and should not be composted, different composting methods and getting the right mix to get the best out of your compost. I hope you'll stop by and share your composting knowledge and stories with us!

We are still working on our fall garden, creating plenty of compost and thinking ahead to spring seed starting in the green house!