Composting is beyond comparing the most important thing in organic gardening. Without a good composting system, organic gardeners will soon find their productivity tailing off as soil quality is reduced.
Adding compost to soil, or composting mulches in place on top of your soil will help close the loop and maintain fertility in your garden. It is this circular pattern that allows for sustainable and eco-friendly organic gardening. It will help you to keep your garden looking good and producing well.
Composting kitchen scraps and other household waste will also allow you to reduce your burden on the waste removal system in your area and on our planet. It will reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy required to remove your waste and by cutting down on the amount of waste sent to landfill sites.
Composting is far easier than you may imagine. Beginners are often confused by what can and cannot be composted. The truth is, almost everything edible can be composted – you just have to find the right method to do so. Many things can be composted on a traditional cold compost heap or bin and so this is usually the best place for novice composters to begin.
A cold composting system may actually get quite hot at times, though it will not get hot enough to kill pathogens in meat or canine feces. Nor will it be hot enough to get rid of most weed seeds. You can, however, use a cold composting system to get rid of vegetarian kitchen waste, along with cardboard, untreated paper, and cuttings, clippings, and leaves from your garden.
The materials should be mixed
One of the important things to remember about composting is that the compost should be a good mix of ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials. ‘Brown’ materials such as brown leaves, small twigs, cardboard, are rich in carbon. ‘Green’ materials on the other hand, such as vegetable scraps, green leafy material, grass clippings, are rich in nitrogen.
Nitrogen rich compost will break down faster, though carbon is needed to help aerate the mix. Oxygen is needed for non-smelly, aerobic composting to occur. Too much ‘green’ and not enough ‘brown’ can create a slimy mess. This encourages anaerobic activity and can cause some nasty smells.
You can add your ‘green’ and ‘brown’ in thin layers, or simply mix them in well together, making sure that you add carbon rich material when you have a lot of nitrogen rich material to add. (When you have mowed an area of lawn, for example.)
It is also important to turn your compost at least once every few months. This will help ensure an even mix of the two types of material as well as of other nutrients contained in your compost. It will also help it to remain oxygenated and will also bring items from the edges of the heap into the center, where they will decompose quicker, giving a more crumbly, better compost at the end of the process.
Having two compost bins will allow you to allow the first, when full, to decompose, while still adding to the second. One cheap and easy way to make fenced containment areas for your two piles is by using wooden pallets, or other scrap wood. In areas of heavy rainfall, or in very hot, dry areas, it can be a good idea to cover your compost heap.
In the first instance, it will prevent nutrients from draining through and being lost in the soil below your heap and in the second scenario, it will help to shade your heap and allow it to retain moisture. Compost should be consistently moist, though not saturated, for the best results.
Different Composting Options For Organic Gardeners
The basics of composting are easy to master, but you may find that you want to find a solution that will suit you better than a basic, cold composting heap. Here are some composting systems that can be extremely useful either instead of or in addition to a cold composting system:
Vermiculture – In this system, worms in a compost bin or container will help to speed up composting and create in the process worm-castes which are particularly good for adding fertility to your garden. Many food scraps can be added for the worms to deal with and since it can be done on a small scale, a wormery is perfect for those with small or even no garden.
A Hot Composting System – A hot composting container can be made or bought. It can heat up to the degree that it will destroy most weed seeds and can be used to compost a wider range of materials more quickly than a cold composting system.
Composting in Place – In a ‘no dig’ organic garden beds are not dug but are rather layered upwards on top of the existing soil surface. The layers are similar to the layers in a compost heap but are simply layered like mulches over the ground become being covered with a layer of topsoil or compost.
There is much more to say and a lot to learn on the topic of composting. However, the basics are simple and anyone can do it, so why not compost
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