As the gardening season gets started in earnest, consider starting a compost pile this year. You won’t be disappointed.
Compost is decomposed organic matter that has been allowed to reach a rich, dark state so that it can be added to soil to improve and enrich it. Good compost helps keep the soil balanced and aerated, encourages earthworm activity, loosens clay soil and lets sandy soil hold water.
Compost helps roots develop and renders the use of storebought fertilizers unnecessary. It promotes the natural production of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, all necessary for a healthy garden, whether you grow vegetables or flowers or both.
How to Begin
Select a shady corner of the yard for a pile that can reach about three feet high and three feet wide, or better, a simple structure to contain the mound of decomposing matter. Some people like to use compost bins, sold at garden centers and hardware stores.
Use a mixture of garden refuse, such as grass clippings and leaves, and organic kitchen waste. In the beginning, layer the garden waste with the kitchen garbage and mix it with some loose soil. As the compost pile grows, you won’t need to worry as much about layering.
It helps to chop up the leaves and other garden waste, or run a lawn mower over it, to speed its decomposition. Most of the compost heap will be leaves, grass, and other things from the garden and yard.
Keep the compost moist but not wet (if you live in an area with good rainfall this won’t be a problem). On the other hand, don’t let it dry out.
If the compost starts to smell, turn it with a pitchfork. Compacted material can develop an odor. Aerated material will decompose more quickly than not and so it’s a good idea to turn the compost regularly. Once it decomposes to a certain point, it will not smell.
What to Compost
Anything that grows in your garden or yard can be composted from weeds to grass clippings and disease-free garden plants. Even twigs will compost but must be chopped up first.
When it comes to kitchen garbage, use only vegetable and fruit peelings and remnants. Do not put meat, fish, or poultry on the compost pile. Tea leaves and coffee grounds can be tossed on the compost pile, as can shredded newspaper and wood ash — although the last two items should be used sparingly.
Once you start to compost you will improve your garden and your world. What better?