Your garden needs the right soil if it is going to be successful. Clay and compacted soils will drown out your plants or make it hard for them to grow. Sandy soils won’t provide the nutrients your plants need to grow. You need a soil that is rich in nutrients and that will retain water enough to keep your plants happy but won’t hold on to it so much that it drowns them.
No matter what your natural soil is like, one of the best ways to get the soil you need is to add compost to it. You can easily make your own compost using kitchen scraps and yard waste. Not only is making your own compost preferable since you can control what goes into it (thereby reducing harmful chemicals), but it also helps you to save money and to reduce waste. Here are a few top tips for successful composting:
Start with the Right Bin
You can make a compost bin out of just about anything – an old trash can, a mesh cage, a pile of pallets. You can even make a compost pile in the open air with no bin. However, these methods can leave your compost vulnerable to pests or to outside elements that could throw off the balance required to make compost.
To get great compost in the shortest amount of time possible, you need the right bin. It should be completely enclosed on all sides and the top, with the bottom open so that the compost materials are resting directly on the ground. This will help to keep things out that don’t need to be in your compost and it will help to keep the bin the right temperature for making compost.
Get the Right Mix of Greens and Browns
Your compost comes together through the work of worms, bacteria and a delicate mix of chemical interactions. To make sure you get a good compost and to get it quickly, you need to put the right mix of “greens” and “browns” in the pile.
“Greens” include all plant-based kitchen waste (fruits, vegetables, grains), yard clippings, the old plants from your garden, and weeds. “Browns” include dead leaves, small twigs, wood chips, sawdust, cardboard, and newspaper. Your pile should be two parts greens and one part browns. If this mixture is thrown off, your compost will take much longer to form or may never form at all.
Keep Out the Wrong Items
Many people put items in their compost bin that they shouldn’t. Manure is the most common example. While cow manure is great for your compost, the manure from household pets is not. Manure from dogs and cats could introduce a harmful bacteria into your compost that could make you and your family sick.
Other items to keep out of your compost include any kind of meats or dairy, bones, diseased materials and materials that contain harmful chemicals. Some of these items will attract unwanted pests, some will disturb the balance of your compost, and some will increase your risk of becoming ill.
Make Sure to Water It and Turn It
If you just leave your compost pile to sit with the right ingredients, it will do its work on its own – it just may take a long time. You can help the process along by watering and turning your compost pile. Both help to activate the process and move it along quicker. About once a week, you should open the lid of your compost bin, spray it with water, and use a pitchfork to turn the ingredients.
Make Sure It Gets Hot Enough
The bacteria in your compost need to live at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit to do their work. While you don’t need to get into your bin with a thermometer, you do need to make sure the conditions are right to maintain these temperatures. That includes keeping your compost bin enclosed, with a lid always fastened, and making sure it stays watered once a week to keep it activated.
While it may seem like there’s a lot involved with composting, it’s actually a really easy process: Dump your waste in the bin, and turn and water it once a week. If you make sure you follow all these steps, you’ll have a dark, rich, healthy compost in a couple of months that you can put in your garden or on your lawn for strong and healthy plants.