Thursday, July 7, 2016
Composting for Beginners
Many people shy away from composting because they think it is some mysterious black art or takes specialized knowledge to do properly. In truth, composting is such a natural process that converting your waste into fertile soil is almost impossible to get wrong and takes absolutely no special skills or equipment. A compost tumbler can make the process more efficient, but it is by no means a necessity. I have one friend whose composting method is nothing more than using the old hay from his barn as mulch, on his garden paths and then sweeping it into his beds as it breaks down. He then puts down a fresh layer of hay and starts over.
At a most basic level composting is no more than doing what nature does with waste, but doing it in a more efficient manner. In nature, microorganisms break down waste and return the nutrients to the soil where they started out. It is kind of an “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” kind of process. Every leaf on every plant, every blade of grass and every piece of fruit started out as soil and was transformed by nature into something wonderful. When composting you are simply finishing the life cycle as nature intended and like most things that are natural it is dirt simple. Pun intended.
What I term as direct composting is the method I use and recommend when trying recovering very poor soil and as a way to make use of things like meat trimmings and food scraps that I don’t want in my compost pile to draw vermin.
I keep a small can with a cover under the sink and collect the food scraps in it. When it is full or I just decide to I take it out to the garden, dig a small hole and bury the goods under six inches or more of soil. From there nature will take care of the rest. The scraps will break down faster than most people realize and leave behind a rich soil deposit and hopefully a small worm bed.
Again, there is no great mystery here, people have different opinions but I have found that the best size for a compost pile is 3’x3’x3’. At this size, they are easy to manage and still large enough to produce good results.
You can use wire mesh around a frame leave it as a loose pile or my favorite method is to build a three sided box from scrap pallets. I do recommend leaving one side open or removable so that it is easy to turn and mix your pile.
As you gather yard and garden waste simply add it your compost pile. Keep it dampened but not soaking wet, so that the microbes will stay healthy and happy and let them door their job. If you want faster results, add food waste and worms to the mix.
Composting really is just that easy. It takes very little work and while you can get as technical and fancy about it as you would like as a natural process, you have to mess up pretty bad for it not to work. Nature is nothing if not resilient.
Compost tumblers are the Cadillac’s of the composting world they allow you to easily mix, moisten and sift your compost with less effort than you would believe and as an added bonus, by being a closed environment they work even faster than a compost pile with worms.
Composting is a natural a process as there ever existed. If you have taken a walk through the fall leaves or spring forest you have witnessed how it works. It takes minimum effort, rewards you with better soil than you could ever buy, saves you fertilizer cost, and allows you to grow more beautiful flowers and nutritious vegetables than you can buy in any store.