Gardeners can make high-grade natural compost with ordinary kitchen waste, resulting in a rich soil amendment and lightening the load at landfill sites.
Keeping a compost heap not only frees the landfill sites of otherwise useful material, but the compost itself enriches the soil in the garden.
It loosens it and offers the plants all the nutrients they need – nutrients that result in healthy and vigorous growth for those plants. The materials are free, recycled from garden and kitchen waste.
How Compost is Created
In basic terms, compost is simply well-rotted organic matter that has broken down over time to a dark humus texture. The organic matter is composted, or broken down, with the assistance of the micro-organisms of various bacteria present in the waste to be recycled.
High temperatures need to be created naturally in the compost to destroy the weed seeds, pests and potential diseases that could be present.
An adequate temperature of 140 F is ideal. For the compost heap to reach those high temperatures, it needs to be a little airy. Oxygen is needed for the micro-organisms to work at breaking down the green matter.
This labor from millions of bacterial organisms creates the heat necessary to encourage a healthy and nutrient-rich compost heap – free of weed seeds, disease and pests.
The Compost Bin
Most gardens have space for a 3′ by 3′ easily-built compost bin. The main thing to consider is that it needs to be airy. Even if the homeowner built a three-sided box, it would be enough.
Ideally, lay some crossed twigs or branches on the ground inside the box, this allows for the movement of air. The compost itself will have to be turned every few days.
The Healthy Compost Heap
Any organic green waste from the kitchen will work well in a compost heap. But some things will need to be chopped down further, like cabbage or broccoli stalks. Bulky waste can take a long time to break down.
To keep the compost heap from smelling, it will need a mixed diet of green waste and brown waste. Smelly compost heaps are the result of too much nitrogen or green waste.
The green waste the gardener adds to the heap should be balanced by layering it with brown waste.
In other words, every time a layer of green waste is added, a layer of brown should be added on top of it. But keep the layers thin. This will help to keep the compost moist.
Green Waste for the Compost Heap
Green Waste includes kitchen vegetable matter, tea leaves and tea bags, plant trimmings, grass, weeds (prior to seeding), fruit, egg shells, and coffee grounds.
Brown Waste for the Compost Heap
Brown Waste includes dry leaves, straw, twigs, newspaper and other natural waste.
The key is to chop the items into small pieces for the organisms to do their work faster
When Compost is Ready for Use
During the growing season, expect the waste in the compost heap to take at least two months to break down. In northern climates, the gardener could start in April and have good compost by mid-summer.
Compost heaps can be kept up in the winter months for use the following spring. Gardeners will know the compost is ready for use, because the organic matter will be loose and friable with the presence of earthworms.
Save Money by Recycling
Composting can reduce the amount of waste the homeowner sends to the land fill site, by at least twenty-five percent.
As a further incentive, the gardener will save money by recycling her own household and kitchen waste, rather than purchasing soil amendments from garden centers.
She will be producing a valuable soil amendment in her own backyard.