When asked the key to our garden’s success – we always come back to the basics – it all starts with great compost!
Compost is King. Great compost holds all of the nutrients needed to power your garden, and helps keep soil loose, workable and energized. We use it liberally in all of our vegetable planting holes, as a mulch around plants, for top dressing on our growing rows – and as an additive to all of our homemade planter and hanging basket soil mixes.
For proof of compost’s power – we only need to look at the raised beds we plant each year directly in front of our compost bins. Whether it’s cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or corn – the plants that go into those areas are always dark green, full of life – and ridiculously healthy! Why – because they soak up the incredible nutrients leaching from the pile all summer long
And there’s more – when it comes to an all-natural boost for your plants – compost is again the answer in the form of tea! Compost tea is simply good ol’ H2O soaked and steeped in compost – and it works wonders to give plants an all-natural boost! See: Making Compost Tea
How To Make Great Compost
To get the most from your compost pile – it’s important to remember that it takes a proper balance of Brown (Carbon) and Green (Nitrogen) materials. Browns consist of leaves, straw, wood shavings, dead grass, small twigs, etc. The Green’s are materials such as vegetable peels, coffee grounds, green grass and plant clippings – or animal by-products like chicken and rabbit manures. They are the “fuel” that gets the pile cooking!
A great rule of thumb is that for every 4 parts of brown material you put in – add 1 part green. It doesn’t have to be all at the same time either. If we happen to add a lot of kitchen scraps and a bucket of coffee grounds to the pile over the course of a few days – I know that I should probably mix in 4 times that in browns (shredded leaves ,etc.) to balance it out.
It’s also important to know what not to put in your pile. Meat is a big no-no – it can attract rats, mice, raccoons and other unwanted animals. In addition – refrain from using dog or cat manure as it can contaminate your pile.
You can start your pile in a homemade bin, behind a garage or shed – or even the corner of your garden.
Make your pile large enough to get cooking (3′ x 3′) – but not too large to work. It’s important to chop up items before adding them – as it help speeds decomposition. Keep your pile turned often – at minimum a few times a week – or daily if you want to make faster batches.
Last, but certainly not least – keep the pile moist – compost needs a little moisture to keep it cooking! A good compost pile should feel like a slightly damp sponge.
Don’t get caught up in worrying about all of the technical ratios you hear – or you will never get around to making your pile! Remember that everything will compost eventually – and if you follow the above steps – you be well on your way to great compost! So get that pile going – and start turning all of that “waste” into black gold for your garden! For a more in-depth look on composting, see the articles below:
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Happy Gardening, and Composting! – Jim and Mary