The Secret To Making a Good Garden Compost

Composting is one of the oldest forms of recycling. It is a cheap, hygienic, and natural way of making a wonderful soil-enriching compost from stuff that you would otherwise throw out.

If you don’t compost this stuff, it gets trucked around the country to be buried in huge ugly holes in the ground – landfill!

What a waste of organic material, fuel, manpower, and garden nutrients, not to mention the blight on the landscape that is landfill.

What is garden compost good for?

  • You’ll save money on waste disposal costs.
  • You’ll save money on buying compost for soil improvement, potting compost, and houseplant compost.
  • … but more important than any of those, you will help make a better world for your children and teach them how to work with nature, not against it.

Garden compost is a versatile and essential asset for any gardening enthusiast. Its decomposed organic materials offer a range of benefits that foster optimal plant growth and soil health.

Compost enriches soil by improving its structure and porosity, creating an environment where roots can thrive. Bursting with vital nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, compost provides a consistent source of nourishment as it gradually breaks down.

Moreover, compost introduces beneficial microorganisms to the soil, aiding in nutrient availability, disease suppression, and overall soil vitality.

The water retention capacity of compost helps soil retain moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering and aiding plants in enduring dry spells. Its pH-regulating properties balance soil acidity or alkalinity, contributing to an optimal growing environment.

By using compost, gardeners not only recycle kitchen and yard waste but also mitigate erosion, foster biodiversity, and promote plant growth. The combination of improved soil structure, enhanced nutrient availability, and better water retention translates to healthier plants with stronger root systems, leading to increased yields.

In essence, garden compost is a natural and sustainable way to nurture your garden and enjoy thriving, productive plants.

What can I compost in my yard?

list of items you can compost in your yard

Composting is a fantastic way to recycle organic materials and enrich your garden’s soil. Here’s a list of items you can compost in your yard:

  • Garden waste: Grass clippings, hedge clippings, dead-heads, cut flowers, autumn leaves, moss that you rake out of the grass – basically anything that contains high levels of nitrogen.
  • Kitchen waste: Fruit cores and peels, vegetable peels, leftover salad, paper egg boxes, tea bags, coffee grounds, corn cobs – pretty much anything that is ‘vegetable’ in origin.
  • Other stuff: Shredded newsprint, corrugated cardboard

Remember to avoid adding items like meat, dairy products, oily foods, pet waste, and any treated or coated paper products to your compost pile. These materials can attract pests, produce unpleasant odors, or introduce harmful pathogens to your compost.

Balancing a mix of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials is key to successful composting. Aim for roughly equal parts of both types to create a healthy, decomposing compost pile that will eventually turn into nutrient-rich humus for your garden.

How to make a Garden Compost – Step-by-Step process

  1. Build or buy a composter. It’s not important what you do. If you prefer to buy one, try Gardens Alive. They’ll even give you $20 off an order of $40 or more – just look for the ‘Compost bin‘ link on the left-hand side of their page.
  2. Find a good place for your home composter. It should be on bare soil or on grass. It is best to lightly dig over or loosen the grass.
  3. Put your composter in place. It can be a home-built one, or you can buy a composter – it really doesn’t matter.
  4. Gather some organic waste. Start with a layer of woody material such as straw, twigs, cardboard, etc. This helps to allow good air circulation at the bottom of the pile.
  5. Add layers of green (grass clippings, salad waste, fruit peels, etc.) and brown material (cardboard, twigs, newspaper) about 3 or 4 inches thick.
  6. Add a little water between each layer and, if you like, a sprinkling of soil. This makes sure you have lots of bacteria and fungi throughout the stack so they can get to work quickly.
  7. Don’t worry – it will look like it is filling up really fast, but it will shrink dramatically after just a few days. And, no, it won’t smell to attract vermin or flies as long as you add material in layers.
  8. Avoid adding thick layers of grass clippings. They do make wonderful compost, but if you put too much in one layer, they will compact and rot rather than compost. I find it’s easiest to keep a week’s waste in buckets or beside the composter to make layers when I come to mow the grass. That way, I have grass clippings and other stuff to make layers once a week.

How long before compost is ready to use?

If you have a good range of material and a well-layered stack, it could be ready in as little as 3 or 4 months. Generally, though, you should expect that the compost you make this year will be ready for use next year. 

What I like to do is have two bins beside each other. I use one until it is almost full to the top. Then, I switch to the second one and let the first one mature.

By the time the second one is nearly full, the first one is ready for use and is about two-thirds full of the most wonderful, sweet-smelling, clean, and wholesome compost that money could buy!

And even better, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is completely natural, that I made it myself, that it cost me nothing, and that I have done something to help preserve the planet for my children and grandchildren – let me know if you can buy that anywhere!

In summary, successful garden composting hinges on a few key practices. Maintain a balanced mix of green and brown materials to encourage efficient decomposition, regularly aerate the pile by turning it, and shred larger items for quicker breakdown. Adjust moisture levels, layer materials, and exercise patience, as composting is a gradual process. Avoid adding harmful elements like meat and dairy, and cover the pile to retain moisture and heat.

Once your compost is dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling, use it to enrich your garden soil, fostering healthier plants and contributing to sustainable gardening practices. Embracing these techniques transforms waste into valuable nourishment, showcasing the art and science of responsible composting.