A garden or flowerbed’s best friend is good, rich soil. And there are very few better – or cheaper – ways than composting to pack nutrients and add vitality to any soil, so plant growth can flourish.
Add some healthful compost to your beds, gardens or the base of trees, and sit back and watch as flowers bloom brighter, vegetables grow larger and tree leaves thrive.
Other benefits of composting include:
- Conditioning the soil and helping it retain moisture
- Recycling kitchen and yard waste to keep it out of the landfill
- Adding microscopic organisms to soil so it aerates better and fights plant disease
- Acting as a natural, chemical-free fertilizer
It’s easy! With a little room, and a little time, anyone can transform lawn and kitchen waste into a gardener’s version of gold. Adding compost to soil improves its structure, retains moisture better and naturally aerates soil with too much clay or sand.
So for starters, what do you need? Pretty much just a shovel or pitchfork – and a space outdoors with at least a foot of clearance from surrounding structures. You can also buy a fancy composting bin if you’d like. They’re terrific, and especially good in tight spaces. But basically, a pile on the ground can work just as well!
To get it going, start with grass clippings, garden weeds or other yard waste, along with kitchen scraps like eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, and fruit or vegetable scraps. One important thing, don’t use meat scraps, grease or bones, as those will just attract unwanted critters! Keep a container under the kitchen sink for scraps. Coffee grounds have a pleasant smell to hide odors.
Grass clippings and kitchen scraps provide nitrogen while leaves or dried straw provide carbon. Just throw in any organic materials as it becomes available. To speed things up, we suggest you water it to keep it moist (but not soggy!) turn the pile every other week to give it air. If your pile smells bad, break out the pitchfork as it may be wet or not getting enough oxygen.
The finished compost pile will take up only about a quarter of the space of the original pile. When you can no longer identify the individual materials and the pile looks like dark, rich soil, you’re ready to go! It will smell sweet and earthy, and it will crumble in your fingers. If it smells bad, it is either too wet or not getting any oxygen.
Tips for composting success!
- Start your compost pile on bare ground. This lets worms and insects do some natural aerating.
- Add compost in layers. Alternate moist and dry layers and cover up the kitchen scraps with grass clippings or leaves.
- Cover your pile. A covering of wood, plastic or even a carpet scrap helps your pile retain moisture and heat.
- Keep it moist. You don’t want things to get soggy, but water it about once a week and turn it after a rain.
- Compost is an additive only. Don’t use compost exclusively as a soil. Think of it as one component of a healthy garden bed, not the soil itself.
It’s easy. It’s good for plants and the environment. And it’s free! What’s not to love about composting? Now that spring is in full bloom, find a small space in your yard and make it your composting headquarters. Your plants and your wallet will thank you!