Spring has sprung, and if you’re like most homesteaders, you have big ideas for your garden. But a bountiful harvest starts with great soil, and to have nutrient rich earth to feed your plants, you need the right type of fertilizer. One great source for foliage fuel is to get it from your own home compost pile.
Here are some ways to start composting at home:
Know What You Can (and Can’t) Compost
Your “black gold” starts with putting the right products into your compost bin. We recommend having a sealed container that can set on your kitchen countertop without being an eyesore (but tight enough to hide potential odors.) Fill it with scraps after each meal, including things like eggshells and coffee grounds.
Stay away from anything that’s greasy (including meat) or dairy products. And if you’re piling the compost somewhere outside or putting it in a large barrel, steer clear of dog and cat waste.
Make a Tumbler
Every so often, you need to mix your new compost in with the old. A DIY tumbler is one of the best ways to combine green and brown compost without getting messy. Simply rotate the barrel and allow it to set in “mini batches” until you’re ready to dump it out.
No Barrel? Dig a Trench
Trench composting is an alternative to conventional “stirring” type compost bins and barrels. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a dug trench that extends through the length of your garden, where your compost is buried. You can choose to plant right on top of it or let it set for a year before planting. Using a personal sized dozer such as the MAGNATRAC with a trenching attachment is a fast and easy way to get the job done right.
Use the Right Ratio of Products
For scraps and yard clippings to turn into compost, it needs to heat up. A mixture of “green” and “brown” products helps to create larger amounts of compost at one time. But before that can happen, the pile needs to be large enough. As a rule, you want to have 3 parts of older “brown” waste to every 1 part of “green” fresh waste. Your green nitrogen waste comes from kitchen scraps, while brown waste is usually carbon rich tree products like leaves, pine needles, and bark.
Keep it Moist
In order to ensure the products are breaking down properly (and to initiate heating in larger, dry piles) you need to add moisture when turning or stirring your compost. Just don’t add too much water, or the mulch will start to rot and become bacteria ridden instead of turning into quality compost.
Watch for Steam and Earthworms
Do you see vapor or steam coming up from the middle of your composting pile? It’s doing its job! When it’s time to stir it over, look for signs of earthworms. Not only do worms love mulch, but they speed up the decomposition process and help you achieve a richer product that feeds your garden.