There’s an incredible resource for the avid gardener in your home right now. It’s hiding in plain sight. In fact, there’s even a significant possibility that you’ve put it in your dustbin. Any idea what we’re on about?
It’s organic waste! The food scraps, veggie off cuttings and fruit peels that you leave behind after you’ve had a meal and the leftovers that come from maintaining your garden. This often-discarded resource could be the absolutely free additive you use to take your home garden to the next level, and when you’ve started composting, you’ll wonder why you’ve never done it before. Still not sure? Or wondering where to start? Look no further. You’ve just found the Garden Master crash course on compost. And it doesn’t even have to stink!
What is compost?
Compost is organic material that’s added to soil to make plants grow. This concoction improves soil’s organic, physical and chemical properties, and can be a game changer if you’ve been struggling to get your garden to flourish, adding the magic ingredients that plants love.
Compost is usually created using decomposing plants, food waste, recyclable organic materials and manure, added together and allowed to interact. The resultant mixture is packed with plant nutrients and beneficial organisms, such as bacteria, protozoa, nematodes and fungi.
Why should I use compost?
The right compost in the right soil can completely reduce the need for chemical fertilisers, which can be expensive and not-so-great for the environment. Wikipedia states that the benefits of using compost are “adding nutrients to crops as fertiliser, acting as a soil conditioner, increasing the humus or humic acid contents of the soil, and introducing beneficial microbes that help to suppress pathogens in the soil and reduce soil-borne disease.” You might say these are like performance-enhancing substances for your garden, but instead of giving your petunias ‘roid rage’, they get gorgeous seasonal blossoms instead!
If you’re passionate about the environment, composting is also an integral part of sustainable waste management. Decomposing organic waste makes up approximately 20% of the content of global landfills. In landfills, organic waste takes significantly longer to decompose and also becomes contaminated by the non-biodegradable substance there, creating greenhouse gas emissions and wasting what could have been usable nutrients. You can build a functioning compost heap in only a few months.
What can I put in a compost heap?
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Yard trimmings
- Grass clippings
- Hay and straw
- Cotton and wool rags
- Pet hair and fur
- Fireplace ashes
What shouldn’t I put in a compost heap?
- Coal or charcoal ash – the chemicals can be overwhelming to more delicate plants.
- Dairy products – they’ll create odour problems and attract flies.
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants – The diseases they’re carrying may survive in the compost heap and transfer to living plants, causing issues in your garden
- Meat or fish bones and scraps – these could create odour problems or attract flies
- Pet waste – it might contain bacteria or parasites that are harmful to humans
How to start composting
- First, you’ll want to pick a location. Though you can compost indoors, most people do it outdoors. Depending on what you add, the mixture may have a noticeable organic smell, so people often choose to build their hep in a spot that’s a little removed from living quarters. It’s also important to bear in mind that the chemical processes involved in composting might generate some heat, so keeping the heap far from electronics or gas bottles is advisable.
- Clear a spot of bare earth to start your compost heap. Direct contact with the ground allows beneficial critters like worms to enter it from the ground and aerate it, which speeds up the composting process and allows a greater concentration of useful nutrients to develop.
- Lay down twigs or straw to aerate your compost heap even further, and aid in drainage when it rains.
- Once you’ve gathered materials from the compost list above, you can start layering them in your prepared heap spot. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, and wet waste. Dry materials are straw, leaves, and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle them in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down, and the last thing you want is lumpy compost.
- Activate your compost pile by adding nitrogen-rich manure to speed along the process. This is not guano – don’t worry! A green manure can be clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings or any nitrogen source.
- Occasionally check to see that your compost is moist. Rain should do the job, but occasionally watering your compost heap during dry seasons will make sure it stays activated and producing the good nutrients.
- Cover your compost with plastic sheeting or a tarpaulin so that it keeps moisture but doesn’t become over-sodden or soaked by rain. You can also use whatever you have lying around, such as carpet scraps or wood offcuts. Anything goes – it’s your heap!
- Turn your compost heap every few weeks. We’d recommend using this Garden Master Domestic Spadefor the job, and just getting in and giving it a good mix. This helps adding oxygen to the compost and aerates it. Once the pile is established and activated, you can add new ingredients by mixing them in rather than adding them in layers.
- In about six months, your compost heap is ready to use! You can tell your compost is ready to go when its texture is crumbly and smooth, it smells sweetly fragrant and loamy, and it’s a dark, rich colour. Some gardeners even call it “black gold.”
- Use your compost as mulch, DIY potting soil, for feeding perennial plants, as garden bed topsoil and more! Basically, anywhere you need soil, compost is a fantastic option that will make your garden flourish.
But what if I don’t want to go through all that hassle?
We get it! Not everyone has the time or space to create a compost heap. If you’re living alone, you might not even be producing enough organic waste to get one up and running. We don’t think that means you shouldn’t have compost, though!
That’s why the Garden Master team has created our own range of Organic Compost, created sustainably for use in your garden. Our compost improves water retention, increases beneficial microbe and earthworm populations, rejuvenates depleted soils and improves your overall garden quality. It’s not unpleasant smelling, either!
Whether you’re going all-out and creating your own compost heap, or you’re taking the Garden Master route and using our ready-made compost, give your garden the head start with compost! It might make a difference you have to see to believe!