Cheryl Fleming, GRI, ABR's Blog
Keeping a vegetable or flower garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do during the warm months. It’s an excuse to get outside, grow delicious food, save money on groceries, and learn about the art of gardening.
One of the keys to a healthy garden is to maintain your soil quality. There are a number of ways you can achieve this, from buying fertilizer, to mixing in lime, manure and other additives. One way to improve your garden soil quality while also reducing household waste is to start composting.
In this article, we present a guide to garden composting that will help you grow healthier plants and find a new purpose for the waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
What is composting?
Composting is a lot like recycling. It’s nature’s way of reusing minerals and nutrients from organic matter by putting them back into the soil.
Most of us are averse to rotting fruit and vegetables, but they’re packed with the nutrients that your garden needs to flourish.
Benefits of composting
Aside from increasing the nutrients in your soil, composting can help in a number of other ways. It will help the soil retain moisture, meaning you’ll have to water less, it can help you save money on fertilizer, and it will yield healthier plants and fruit that have a higher nutritional value.
Better yet, aside from the cost of buying or building a composting bin, it’s a free resource.
Most homeowners who compost their organic waste do so by buying or building a composting bin. These range from simple wooden boxes to barrels built on a spit for rotating.
Generally, compost bins are either wooden (unstained) or plastic. Metal will generally rust, and you don’t want to mix rust into your garden.
The key to good composting is being able to move the composting matter around so that it can receive oxygen. However, you’ll also want to be able to keep it moist to encourage decomposition.
If you decide to start off with just a simple wooden box for your compost, make sure you have easy access to a shovel to mix the compost around.
In terms of location, you probably don’t want your bin to be too close to your home. Decomposition doesn’t smell great, and you won’t want the odors floating through your windows on a hot summer day.
What to compost
The number of things you can toss into your compost bin is surprisingly large. However, here’s a short list of some common compostable items:
Fruits and vegetables, coffee grinds, leaves and grass clippings, breads, and cereals.
There are more advanced composting methods that can break down things like newspaper, paper bags, and egg cartons, but it’s best to start with organic materials.
Maintaining your compost bin
There are a few key steps to maintaining a healthy compost bin. First, make sure you have a variety of materials in it. Putting only one type of organic matter in your compost bin will make it hard to break down. A mixture of leaves, clippings, and fruits and vegetables will yield better results than just grass clippings.
Next, make sure you keep it moist by watering the compost heap once a week, or whenever it seems like it’s drying out.
Finally, rotate or mix the composting material around with a shovel. This will help matter break down faster and more evenly.