Garden Composting - Why And How?

If you are growing any vegetables, flowers, or other types of plants, making the decision to begin garden composting is one of the best choices you can make. First of all, you will not need synthetic fertilizers, which can be expensive and utilize unnatural ingredients. Secondly, you will be using materials that are normally wasted and thrown in the garbage.

To begin compost gardening, you simply accumulate waste materials in one spot and allow them to rot. As a matter of fact, a famous book on the subject was titled "Let it Rot". While this is an oversimplification, it does communicate the basic concept. If you've ever been around any rotting organic materials, you may want nothing to do with this whole idea. However, when the compost pile is properly created and maintained, it can be odorless and will not be a magnet for pests.

How does this work? Basically, you create a pile of waste materials and allow natural bacteria to do their decomposition magic upon them. When the compost pile has been properly maintained, the end result will be a wonderful hummus-like material which is a fantastic time-release plant fertilizer and garden soil amendment.

What kind of stuff can you put in this compost pile? Most types of organic material, such as dead plants, eggshells, coffee grounds, chicken and pigeon manure, egg cartons, some kinds of cardboard including egg cartons, and more. However, it's probably more important to tell you that there are certain types of organic materials that you definitely do not wish to add to the pile, some being dairy products, grease, meat and bones, eggs, and dog, cat, or human manure. The reason for not adding these items is because they will either attract pests such as rodents or flies, or hold the potential to be a hazard to human health in the finished compost product.

While many people prefer to start their compost pile directly on the ground, the most popular method is to make the compost in a container. There have been many different materials that have been used for the container. People have only been limited by their imagination and the materials they happen to have lying around. Some people have used trash cans, some have used wooden shipping pallets, some have used clear plastic storage bins, and some have used cinder blocks and boards.

The compost pile will process quicker if it is 'turned' on a regular basis. Turning is exactly what it sounds like - if it's an open pile, just insert a shovel or pitchfork and turn the contents over a few times to mix it. If the compost is in a container, it can become a little more difficult to turn. That's why people have come up with some inventive solutions to facilitate turning. People have used round containers such as garbage cans or old oil drums, mounted them on a stand so that they can be turned, and attached doors through which they add organic materials. Once they've added it, they then just close the door and spin or tumble the container, which serves to turn the material. You can also purchase many different styles of manufactured compost bins, some of which have the rotational feature.

We don't have space here to go through all the steps for garden composting, but it's really not hard. You can find a number of books dedicated to the subject, and an internet search will turn up many additional resources. Your local county extension department can also be a fine source of information.

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