Whether you have a large garden, a small yard, or even nothing more than an apartment balcony, you can get started with composting. Reduce waste, form healthy soil, and create a magical substance that will replace chemical-laden fertilizers.
Choose the Right Spot
Michael Treco explains that if you’re limited with space, then you’ll likely choose to compost in a specially designed composting bin. But if you’re looking to compost in a garden or yard, choosing the right spot will be key.
Be sure to choose somewhere that’s flat, with good drainage, and away from children and animals. Some protection from the elements is a good idea if you live in an area with lots of rain or sun.
Discover the Magic Formula
Composting is essentially about building a pile that efficiently turns waste matter into soil. And like all efficient machines, your compost pile should be fine-tuned with just the right materials in the correct quantities.
The dream ratio is usually 30:1 carbon to nitrogen. This means that for every 30 parts of carbon you put into the pile, you’ll add one part nitrogen.
When the ratios are right, then your pile will start to heat up, and you’ll begin the process of hot composting, which is when the microbes are at their peak efficiency in the pile, breaking down the matter from waste into compost.
So, what constitutes carbon material, and what nitrogen?
The idea of composting is that you reduce waste, so there’s no need to buy any materials to get you started. However, if you’re composting in a tub, or you decide on vermicomposting, which uses worms to actively break down the mulch, then you may need to shell out a little cash to get you started.
But even if all you have is an empty space in your yard, the rest will be provided by nature.
There’s carbon all around us, and the following is perfect for a compost heap:
- Dead leaves and branches
- Paper and cardboard (not treated with paint or ink)
- Wood ash
Pile your carbon up no higher than four feet, and around three feet wide. And now, you’ll add the nitrogen.
Use these much more sparingly, not forgetting the 30:1 rule:
- Fresh lawn clippings
- Green leaves and plant clippings
- Horse manure
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
In case you need a little more help, this great article from Cornell University details the exact volumes of each ingredient, and the chemistry behind them.
You’re All Set!
Now you’ve got your materials together, be sure to turn the pile every week with a large garden fork, to ensure the microbes are dispersed equally and that the active composting continues.
Within just a few weeks you’ll notice how efficiently your composting pile has broken all the carbon-rich material down. You can continue to add to the pile, keeping the ratios the same, as you make plenty of nutrient-rich compost.
The final product is known in the composting world as ‘black gold’ and will bring new life to your garden. Composting is a highly satisfying and environmentally sustainable practice you’ll be glad you started!