There is an old saying among gardeners – compost happens! Did you ever stop to think what would become of fallen leaves left beneath a tree if they did not decompose naturally? We would be neck-deep in leaves! Just as with making chili, there are many recipes for making compost – some hot, some mild. Here is how I make mine.
Composting is free and easy to do. We built a 4-foot square homemade compost bin made of welded wire fencing that we attached to the two fences that meet in the back corner of our yard. One side of the welded wire fencing swings open from a fence post. Here is my recipe for compost:
- Keep a covered container by the kitchen sink for vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds. Do not compost meat scraps.
- Loosen the ground of the compost area to expose soil organisms and to provide drainage.
- Throw in a layer of kitchen scraps whenever the kitchen container is full. This provides a nitrogen source. You could also use grass clippings or chopped up garden clippings.
- Cover scraps with a layer of leaves. This provides a source of carbon. It is difficult for microbes to digest carbon without sufficient nitrogen; that is why layering the dried leaves with the green veggie scraps is efficient. You could also use chopped up twigs and dry stems for this layer.
- Periodically layer in a shovel full of soil, which naturally contains the microbes that do all the work for you.
- Sometimes I just throw the scraps on top and then pitchfork soil and compost from the bottom onto the top of the pile, especially when leaves are scarce.
- We add dolomite lime occasionally.
There are a few things you can do to make the pile heat up to produce compost faster:
- Add manure or other organic fertilizer to increase nitrogen.
- Turn the pile to increase oxygen.
- Chop or shred leaves or garden clippings to increase surface area of material.
- Water lightly during drought. Another way of adding water during dry times is to add water to your compost bucket until the air spaces between the food scraps are full of water. Then dump onto the compost pile.
The City of Tallahassee sells plastic compost bins at cost every so often to encourage residents to compost rather than send valuable food scraps and leaves to the landfill. There are also more expensive tumbler-type models available that make turning your compost a snap. If you have an enclosed compost bin, remember to add some soil from your yard to provide microbes and water occasionally. It seems that lots of folks forget to do this.
Remember, compost happens. My sister deposits her collected vegetable scraps directly into the soil of various beds in her yard. This works for her.