Composting is the natural process of decomposition of organic waste like grass, leaves, paper, and some types of food, that yields manure or compost, which is very rich in nutrients. Compost, also called humus, is a soil conditioner and a very good fertilizer. The product you end up with is a rich, odorless, soil-like substance that can be added to gardens to help plants grow.
When you compost as home, you reduce the amount of waste you throw away and create this tremedous resource. It's also fun and easy!
Making a Compost Bin
You can recycle leaves and other plant materials at home by setting up a compost bin. First select a spot to set up your bin. It should be out of the way but convenient to reach with plenty of room to work around. Some good places would be near your garden or in a back corner of the yard. It is also a good idea to choose a location close to a source of water.
Now for the recipe for compost. The micro-organisms that recycle leaves and other plant parts need an even mix of brown stuff and green stuff to munch on. They also need air and water to live and work. Put all this together and in time you will have compost! You can make a simple compost pile contained in hole or trench or boxed in by bricks, logs, or railroad ties. If you're feeling adventurous, you might even try some of these more elaborate designs for your compost bin:
- Brown stuff
- Green stuff
Brown stuff is dead, dried plant parts like leaves and pine needles. Brown stuff is high in the element carbon.
Green stuff is fresh, living parts like grass clippings, kitchen vegetable scraps, weeds and other plants. Green stuff is high in the element nitrogen.
Don't use meat, milk products because pets and other animals may try to dig them up out of your compost bin. Also don't use diseased garden plants. They can spread disease back into the garden later when you use the compost.
1) Start with the Brown Stuff; it is easiest to build our compost bin in layers of ingredients. Spread a layer of leaves or pine needles about 6 inches thick.
2) Now put in the Green Stuff; food scarps, grass clippings, and weeds, a few inches thick. It is helpful to mix the layers up a little as you make them.
3) Top it off with a shovel of soil or already made compost to add microorganisms to the bin.
4) Water each layer; it is important to wet each layer as you build it. Repeat each of the layers until the bin is full.
The microorganisms will go to work breaking down the ingredients into humus. If you want faster compost, you can mix the ingredients every few weeks but this isn't necessary.
Now tiny microorganisms (that you cannot see without a microscope) go to work breaking down the organic matter into compost. Later, as the compost cools down, you may see larger organisms such as millipedes, sowbugs, earthworms and others. Compost is teeming with living things!
Handful of Compost
This is compost, the dark, earthy-smelling stuff is rich in nutrients. Plants love it! Let's talk about how to use compost to help plants grow.
Use Compost as Mulch You can use compost as a mulch around garden plants, like this rose bush. Mulch protects the soil and shades out weed seeds. Nutrients are washed out into the soil with each rain to feed the roots of plants.
Mix Into Planting Hole Compost is great for mixing into the soil when you are planting a new plant like this flower! It helps a sandy soil hold moisture and nutrients better and improves clay soils too.
Use Compost in Potting Soil Compost mixed with some sand makes a super potting soil for growing plants in containers.
Free Compost is also available from The Solid Waste District of LaPorte County!