You have probably been accumulating a substantial amount of garden clippings and plant waste. You may not realize it but that stuff is a gold mine for your soil! Compost is partially decomposed organic matter that, over time, becomes a dark, crumbly, pleasant smelling, nutrient-rich substance. It improves the water and air holding capacity of your soil, an excellent combination for supporting plant life.
By creating a compost system now, you will be ready to recycle your organic matter for use next year. If you think your garden was nice this year, wait until you start incorporating your compost into the soil next year!
Composting is easy. Follow the steps below and you will be on your way to a healthier and more robust garden.
How to Make a Compost Bin:
Gather 5 4-foot-long wooden stakes and some chicken wire. Attach the chicken wire to the stakes, in a 4'x4' square. Only enclose 3 of the 4 sides, so you can enter it easily. Find a hidden, partially shady spot on level ground to place your bin. If you have a large enough area, you could create a simple compost pile without an actual bin for containment.
Building Layers of Compost:
Your first layer should contain coarse materials, such as twigs or sticks to allow air to circulate. After the first layer, begin to add alternating layers of “green,” or high nitrogen, materials and “brown,” or high carbon, materials. Layering speeds up the decomposition process. You will know that the materials are being broken down because the pile actually heats up during the process!
Green materials include fresh items such as grass clippings, herbaceous plant clippings, vegetable peels and scraps, banana peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, and manure from cows, horses, chickens, and/or rabbits. Brown materials are usually dry and brown, like leaves, twigs, straw, wood ashes, and even shredded newspaper. After creating the layers, use a hose to moisten them. Every two weeks, turn the pile to mix it up. The more you turn your pile, the quicker the materials will break down. As the pile decomposes, it will shrink so be sure to continuously add organic materials. Depending upon the materials used, the compost will be ready in 2 - 6 months. When over-wintering your compost pile, be sure to still turn it once per month, just to mix it up.