Composting 101 | Let's Break It Down


Green goodness = green goodness.

Starting a garden? "Why should I compost" usually comes up as a question. In the Spring I have many conversations about composting with family and friends. There are a lot of questions most people have, that I want to answer here for easy application.

Why compost?

Just as our own bodies need raw nutrition for optimal well being, think of plants needing nutrition to thrive as well. When we eat healthy, the benefits are many : glowing skin, bright eyes, immune support, healthy teeth and bones, happy heart with regular digestion. Seeing our food intake as the fuel of our bodies, as it metabolizes, eventually to show its healthy effects, the same goes for compost when added to your garden soil to nourish your plants.

Proper nutrition for your garden, orchard, beds, guilds and landscape will keep maintenance on a low since your plants will become healthy and more disease resistant. Compost provides minerals, vitamins, micro-organisms, proper bacteria and other trace phytochemicals that provide the plant's systems with readily available organic matter to absorb for vigor.


Compost replaces chemicals that not only harm us, animals, pets and the environment, but, it is free in most cases. This is a perfect example of where a little amount of work goes a long way.

What goes into compost?

Fruits and Veggies.

Scraps of raw vegetables and fruit from preparation in your kitchen are vital for your compost bin. Seeds, stems, peels, rinds, leaves, stalks, etc., are ideal to put into your compost. When cutting veggies or fruit, instead of throwing away what you may have seen as waste or trash, keep a container to fill with kitchen scraps to later dispose of in your compost bin.

Coffee with perks!

Unflavored coffee grounds added to your compost is an excellent soil amendment, which helps your soil's nitrogen level increase over a period of time. Another perk of coffee is that it tastes good and gives you energy to garden early in the morning, one of my favorite reasons to drink it :) Added benefits also include phosphorus, copper, potassium and magnesium, which become available to your soil when used coffee grounds are added. If you are not a coffee drinker (I will wait for you to come to this side :) try asking your local coffee shop if they are willing to donate their used grounds.

Eggsactly!

You read that right. Breakfast is the most important meal you have heard said. As you can read here, there are many reasons why this one meal helps your body fuel itself with nutrition, as well as your soil. Egg shells adds fuel to your garden plants, trees or landscape. Scrambled eggs for breakfast? Perfect, rinse the shells, then add them to your compost, while enjoying a yummy start with breakfast. Egg shells provide calcium and are excellent to help prevent blossom end rot in nightshade plants. If you consume large amount of eggs, after rinsing and drying, pulverize them and simply sprinkle the shells around your plants on top of the soil. I personally do this as well to our houseplants to help ward of bugs that are pestilence.

Leaves & Grass Clippings.

Organic plant materials are ideal for your soil once they are broken down. Fall cleanup of leaves and pruned plants, trees or shrubs make for an easy amendment to your soil. Collecting the pruned materials can be placed directly into bin as each season passes. Grass clipping add "green manure" to your soil. I personally think this is very imperative for healthy soil, so long as the grass is not sprayed with chemical fertilizers.

Around our MicroFarm, you may find grass placed on the top of the garden soil as a mulch. The break down is direct contact, and is so easy to add plant material that is quick.

Branches and other plant material.

Sticks, limbs, and other woody organic matter that are disease free are invaluable for turn style bins as well, all compost bins. They help with "tossing" the soil by, loosening clumps, and take longer to break down than other materials.

Think about the weeds in your yard or on property that you don't want to multiply. If these plants have gone to seed, and you have pulled them and want to add to your compost, think that their seeds are in a very fertile environment to germinate. So, discarding them is always your best choice with weeds, rather than add to your compost.

Paper?

This is one is easy to overlook. Yes, paper can be added to your compost. We use unbleached coffee filters, so we throw them in with the coffee grounds when composting. Paper comes from trees so it makes sense that it can be added when we think of it this way. When composting in large bins, paper helps establish distinct layers.

Types of Bins

Barrel :

This type of composting does not require layering specifically but, has the same requirements in your "compost recipe" (meaning the things listed above.) We have an Organic MicroFarm, which currently has a turnable barrel set up as our compost bin. It is easy, saves space and is off the ground for pest control. We have groundhogs, skunks, and raccoons that like to eat our scraps.

In Ground :

Dig your bed to desired size for future planting. This is where layering is very important. I like to put a layer of newspaper first, then small sticks and twigs. Keep adding your kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells (rinsed,) grass clippings, and other raw plant material. When your compost is below three inches from ground level, add top soil, cover and let cure for six months. This is perfect for a no fuss gardener to prepare for the next planting season.

Bins :

There are wire, wooden bins, three section bins, etc for larger amounts of compost which is dependent on your available space. Here is a link for constructing your own Compost bin. We hope this has answered some of your questions to start you on your way. Stay funky & break it down.

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