Thanks to the combined efforts of almost everyone in our household, our backyard garden has been thriving this year! We’re up to our eyes in squash, tomatoes, and lots of other garden goodies. :-)
And although we’ve had a rotating compost bin next to our garden for the past few years, this is the first year we’ve really been consistent with our composting efforts. And now that our bin is brimming with “black gold,” I can’t help but wonder why we didn’t make the effort sooner!
There are so many benefits to incorporating composting into your efforts in your garden, and it’s surprisingly easy to do! So today I thought I’d share a little bit about the benefits of composting, and share some pointers for how you can get started with it at home! :-)
3 Ways That Compost Can Benefit Your Garden
Turning kitchen scraps and recyclables into compost is not only good for the planet, it can be great for your garden too! Here are a few of the ways that adding compost to your garden soil can benefit your plants.
1. It Improves Soil
Adding light and fluffy compost to your soil will improve its aeration and ability to hold water. And that means more air and water can get down to the roots of your plants!
2. It Provides Nutrients
Compost is rich in nutrients that your plants need to thrive. Additionally, compost can release those nutrients over a longer period of time than many commercial fertilizers.
3. It Attracts Garden Helpers
Adding compost to your garden can attract more worms to your soil. Worms are great for gardens, as they help aerate the soil and they leave behind nutrient-rich waste. Compost also attracts and feeds healthy bacteria that can help keep plant diseases at bay!
Now that we’re all more familiar with how compost helps gardens, let’s dive right in to explore how it’s actually done! (I’ve done my best to stick to the basics here. Composting can get as complex as you’d like it to be, but it can also be as simple as following these 4 steps!)
How To Start Composting At Home
Step 1 – Get A Composter
A composting setup can be as simple as a small fenced area, but not everyone wants to look at (or smell) a pile of rotting organic material! Choosing a backyard composter can be a more visually appealing option. Our composter has two covered bins that rotate freely, which makes “stirring” the compost clean and easy! (I couldn’t find our exact model online, but this one is really similar.)
If you don’t have the yard space for a composting set up, you can always save your kitchen scraps in an indoor compost bin. When it gets full, you can either transfer the contents to your compost pile or bin, or donate them to a local composting service.
Step 2 – Build Your Layers
The process of making compost is relatively simply. It all comes down to layering two types of material: green and brown.
“Green” layer items include:
- Vegetable and fruit scraps
- Grass clippings
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
“Brown” layer items include:
- Dried leaves, grass, and hay
- Cardboard tubes
- Dryer lint
- Shredded newspaper
- Wool or cotton rags
The following items should not go in your composter:
- Dairy products
- Oil or grease
- Pet waste
- Onions or garlic (Worms don’t like them, and we want our compost to be worm-friendly!)
Step 3 – Care For Your Compost
Taking care of compost is simpler than I thought it would be! There are three main components involved in caring for compost: moisture, airflow, and temperature.
The ideal level of moisture in your compost pile is about the same as a wrung-out sponge: moist, but not wet. If it feels a bit dry, just sprinkle some water over it!
And to make sure your compost is getting enough airflow, you’ll want to turn it over with a garden fork every few weeks. (This is where having rotating bins really comes in handy, because you can just turn them over and call it a day!)
Temperature is the third factor you want to watch out for, because cold compost won’t do much of anything. Using a simple compost thermometer is an easy way to make sure it’s staying warm enough that everything can break down properly!
Compost Troubleshooting Tips
- If it seems like your compost isn’t progressing or changing, add more “green” material.
- If your compost is wet and smelly, add more “brown” material.
Step 4 – Use Your Finished Compost
Finally, don’t forget to use your compost! When it looks like soil, it’s ready to go into your garden. Just mix it into your soil, and your efforts are sure to pay off in “spades!”
Do you use compost in your garden?