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How To Start Composting To Make Rich Fertile Compost For Gardens!
Discover how to compost!
Learn how to start composting here today to turn ordinary yard waste and kitchen scraps into a rich fertile soil any plant would thrive in!
If you love organically growing plants of any kind the most beneficial thing you could ever learn is how to compost .
Learn how to make your own compost and save your self loads of money every year by making your own rich healthy living garden soil.
No matter what kind of garden your growing compost will make your plants grow better.
Read any seed packet or planting instructions for all plants, trees or shrubs and you will see the term
“plant in fertile well drained soil” .
This composting process described below is how to get the very well drained soil soil they are talking about. The soil we create by using this process adds fertility and superior draining capabilities to any existing garden soil over time.
I use this composting method myself throughout every year to make compost to create a custom soil mix described in many other related articles on this website to fill my own raised garden beds for a very low cost.
Learning how to compost is a very simple task .
The composting process involves mixing various organic materials from around the home and yard in a pile or composting bin adding some water, turning the mixture to add air and letting it slowly decompose.
We want to mimic what mother nature is doing in a much faster way to grow the most abundant and healthy plant life possible.
There are some academics which try to make the process some kind or rocket science but to be truthful compost happens. You don’t see mother nature mixing certain percentages of ingredients a certain way do you? It is all random events at random times. It takes time for the process to work.
As a rule the longer the pile sits and matures the better the finished product gets.
Compost has various uses when it comes to amending your yard and garden soil but by far this method is best used for filling raised garden beds at a fraction of the cost compared to buying large amounts of the commercial bagged products at your local garden centers in which quality is not near as good.
How To Start Composting
There are multiple composting methods we could use when learning how to start composting
We first need to know how to compost to get this wonderful soil and the methods we use all depends on the amount of the finished compost you will need and the circumstances involved in the area you are living.
Discover a few of these alternative outdoor composting methods for how to make compost below.
Compost Piles – The compost piles are the most effective method for making large quantities of your future garden soil. If you have ample room and there is no need to confine your future soil mix then this method is for you. Multiple piles can be built depending on how much you need and how much material supplies you have.
Compost Bins – If you feel the need to confine your composting efforts to a limited area this method is for you. Compost bins can be made from wood, wire or even purchased enclosed plastic trash bins with tight fitting lids.
Compost Tumblers – If you do not need large amounts of finish material at one time or you just can not have open composting where you live because of restrictions then this may be your best option. Compost tumblers come in many different sizes so you will just have to choose the one that suits your gardening needs. We have supplied you a list that you can browse at the bottom of this page.
How To Start A Compost Pile
Today in this article we will be teaching you how to start a compost pile in order to make your own rich living organic garden soil to grow extraordinary plants in.
The resources and tools you will need are;
Area large enough to build in – Choose an area that you see fit to make compost pile(s)
Water source close by – You will need a source of water to maintain moisture in your pile.
Pitch fork or Garden fork – this tool will be needed for turning and aerating you pile and adding green materials such as food scraps. Pitch forks are recommended for turning the pile because they great for moving large amounts leaves,grass clippings and yard debris in the beginning.
Lawn Mower – To mow and chop up the lawn clippings and yard waste. A lawn mower is not a mandatory item but this tool will help speed up the composting process greatly by cutting and mixing the yard waste into smaller manageable pieces.
Rake and a wheelbarrow or a Garden Cart – You need a way of collecting and moving yard waste and lawn clippings. If you have a bagging mower it makes the process much faster and easier no raking will be necessary.
What You Need To Make Compost
Some of the items you will need for a basic compost recipe to make compost are;
- Tree Leaves
- Lawn Clippings
- Small Twigs
- Shrub and Plant Trimmings
- Garden Plant Debris
- Spent Coffee Grounds & Filters
- Kitchen Food Waste
- Shredded Paper and Newsprint
- Wood Ash
- Any kind of organic plant materials form around your homestead that has lived and died.
- Plain Dirt
- Humus such as worm castings or other clean animal manure sources
These items are are a great to get you started.
You can use any or all of these resources mentioned above for a great compost recipe.
Just gather as many as you can and follow the instructions below. The “Humus” or manure sources are normally added later after the pile begins to cool to kick start it again to finish the composting process quicker by adding new microbial life.
Do not use lawn clippings or yard trimmings that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides because the residual effect of the chemicals will cause harm to the living creatures and life forms it takes to create the compost. Use only clean untreated materials.
Later in the year when all the leaves have fallen and the grasses are starting to slow in growth is the best time to start your first pile.
For those of you who live in areas were your leaves don’t fall at the normal seasonal time of year in the fall you may have to wait to get started early in the year instead after your yard is dormant.
The past few years in the East Texas area were I live, the season has been so far off that I couldn’t build my first compost pile until early February. But never the less we build them all the same when nature allows it.
Trim excess growth from your shrubs and bushes while cutting into small pieces then place into a pile. (I find it easier to chop the smaller trimmings up with a lawn mower).
Late in the year is the best time to start but not the only time you can make compost.
This is just a good time to manicure your property and put your yard to bed for the winter months. While your yard is resting you can be making good nutritious soil for the following growing season.
Making compost throughout the year anytime you have enough waste materials is also good. This insures having available compost ready at all times by staggering the times when you create your piles.
Mow your yard and tree leaves including small twigs ( pencils size and smaller). Collect these grass and leaf trimmings and place over the pile of shrub and bush trimmings that are slightly larger in size that were to big to mow over with your lawn mower.
This will create air at the bottom of your pile which is very beneficial.
Add a couple shovels fulls of dirt into the pile as your are adding layers of material and then top it off with soil and water in well throughout this process.
You can also add your organic kitchen scraps and even some small amounts of wood ash to the pile at this time for extra fertility.
You will need about 40% grass clippings(greens) to 60% leaves(browns) if possible. Like I said earlier nothing has to be exact compost happens regardless.
Your pile will need to be pretty large at least 5 foot high and 5 to 6 foot around at the base for the decomposing process to take effect and work properly.
The amount you are starting with will decompose at least 50% when the
process is complete, So keeping this in mind add to the pile until you see that you might have enough compost for your needs at the end of the process.
For example I build piles about 5 foot high (after settled in with watering) to get a pile around 3 ft high at the end of the process.
It is best to build additional piles rather than getting over 5 foot because anything over 5 foot in height it may not get enough air to decompose effectively.
After making your compost pile(s), adding the dirt and watering in well let it set for a week.
Maintain good moisture by adding water to the pile every couple of days during the first few weeks.
Check the temperature after a week to make sure it is heating up by using a composting thermometer or just inserting your hand into the pile it should be hot to touch in the center.
Check the temperature in a few areas around the pile to be sure it is heating evenly. If it is not heating give it a few more days some times it takes a little longer.
Using a compost thermometer is best because you can see how hot the temperature is. It should be 130 to 160 degrees. If temperature is with in this range check it again every few days until you notice a cooling trend.
When the pile cools it is time to turn it.
Turning consists of digging into the center of the pile pulling the contents out to the base edge. This another good time to add the kitchen scraps including coffee grounds into the hole you just made.
After removing the contents and adding your scraps pull from the top of the pile into the hole to fill it in. Take the contents at the base and add back to the top of the pile.
Repeat this process until you have turned the pile all the way around adding air to it.Water in well.
This task is performed best using a pitch fork or garden fork. Shovels will work but it is much harder to dig into the pile due to the density of it.
Repeat this process every week for about the first month. After the first month you should start noticing a reduction in the size of your compost pile and this is a good sign the process is working fine.
Keep adding the organic kitchen scraps to your pile as described above in different areas throughout the pile as you get them.
This just feeds the living organisms in the pile and keeps them active while adding air to the system at the same time. Be sure to keep it moist but not wet.
When the pile turning becomes difficult using a fork and you see most material just falls through stop adding anything to your pile except water and allow it to mature for a few weeks.
When your pile breaks down at the end of the composting process and a fork no longer works for turning you know your pile is finished.
After the compost pile breaks down like in the the image above on the left a shovel will be needed to load your finished product into a sifter to be screened before use.
Return the larger screened particles back into your next working compost pile to allow them to finish breaking down completely.
Over a period of a few months the compost will become available for use.
Sifting out the larger pieces of the the material using a screen will be necessary before using the final product in your Raised garden beds.
Compost sifters can be easily made by building a box out of 2×4 lumber and attaching expanded metal or some half inch hardware cloth to the the bottom to catch the large particles.
Be sure to make it large enough to sit on top of your wheelbarrow or garden cart that will be used to contain and transport the ready to use materials to the yard landscape plants or gardening areas you wish to use it.
You just got a crash course in how to start composting! Be careful this activity is very addicting and rewarding.
This is a must needed skill you will need to learn if your into gardening for the long haul , it can save you a ton of money overtime.
When learning how to start composting one thing to remember is the older the mix the better it will be.
It may be a good idea to get started composting as soon as possible and don’t rush it.
Composting is not a rocket science like others will try and make you believe.
Nature has no layering methods , it all happens naturally. By building these compost piles adding water and turning them we can make compost much quicker than nature. With experience you will get the hang of how this works and always remember compost happens regardless.
Making a custom mix using your finished compost product with worm castings makes the ultimate growing medium.
To find out more about the custom mixes you can visit many of our other blog posts starting by clicking the image link on the left to learn all about worm composting.
These two composting systems used together is the key to growing all of your healthy thriving yard and garden plants!
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For those of you who don’t have the room for a compost pile be sure to check out these great composting bins and tumblers below!