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Composting Tips for a Home Garden

Composting Tips for a Home Garden - Compost Pail
Ana Williamson
Ana Williamson
March 17, 2023

Did you know solar panels are just one of the many ways to harness the sun's power? Composting lets you combine beneficial microbes, sunshine, food scraps, and yard waste to create rich, nutritious soil. It's a great way to reuse trash instead of dumping it in a landfill, and it creates incredibly potent fertilizer that will take your garden to the next level. Theoretically, you can compost by dumping organic matter in a pile and waiting. However, it's worth being more precise if you want the best compost possible. Here are some composting tips for a home garden to create nutrient-dense compost for your vegetable garden and flowerbeds.

Choose the Right Composting Container

compost buckets

Start by picking the container or compost style that suits your needs. If you want the most straightforward method possible, pick an out-of-the-way area and toss everything there. However, many people find it easier to contain the mess with a giant bin or a wire fence. Another option to consider is a compost tumbler. These are barrels on a rotating rack to toss your compost more efficiently. There are indoor composters if you want to make it indoors.

Always Stick to the "Two Parts Brown, One Part Green" Ratio

One of the essential composting tips for a home garden is learning the correct ratio of "brown" to "green" material. Brown material is carbon-rich organic matter that is often dryer and older, while green material is nitrogen-rich material that's often fresher.

Common examples of brown material include:

  1. Dry leaves
  2. Shredded paper or cardboard
  3. Straw
  4. Wood chips
  5. Nutshells

Meanwhile, typical sources of green material are:

  1. Grass clippings
  2. Vegetable peelings
  3. Coffee grounds
  4. Alfalfa meal
  5. Weeds
  6. Stale bread
  7. Fruit and vegetable scraps

Though working with a ratio sounds complex, balancing your greens and browns is pretty simple. Just toss your green material on the heap and add twice as much brown material. Layering your compost like this helps to speed up decomposition while preventing unpleasant odors.

Make Sure Your Compost Gets Plenty of Sunshine

Most of the beneficial organisms in a compost pile work better when warm. Therefore, putting your compost in a sunny spot is a good idea. Like choosing to go solar today can power your home, the sun's warmth can energize your composting organisms. A hot compost heap's higher heat also helps kill weed seeds and plant diseases that could otherwise harm your garden.

Just make sure to exercise caution during the summer months. The powerful San Gabriel sun can end up drying out your compost heap. During particularly hot times of the year, you can benefit from lightly spraying down your compost heap to keep it damp. If it's getting too hot, you can also spread a tarp over it to stabilize temperatures.

Keep a Pail in Your Kitchen to Collect Scraps

Compost Pail full

Kitchen scraps are one of the best sources of green material for composting. Though things like carrot tops, apple cores, or onion skins might seem like tiny bits of trash, you'd be surprised by how quickly they add up. Just a few days of cooking can quickly generate a lot of excellent compost material.

Keep a small pail, bucket, or another container in your kitchen to simplify your life and avoid throwing out any usable material. The ideal compost collector is something washable that has a lid with holes. To keep the scraps from stinking up your kitchen, consider picking something you can store in the fridge between composting trips.

Create a Damp, Aerated Environment

In addition to warmth and nutrient-rich scraps, a compost heap needs moisture and air. Water and oxygen provide the final ingredients microbes need to break down your waste. Aim to keep your compost heap lightly damp at all times and ensure plenty of chances for air to enter the heap.

There are a few ways you can accomplish these goals. Adding larger twigs or other debris can create little air pockets within the heap. You can also give your heap oxygen by turning your compost. To do this, use a garden fork to mix it up once a week during composting thoroughly. Consider using a hose to sprinkle the compost heap to keep things well-watered. You can also add moisture by using many damp materials like grass clippings.

Get Creative With Composting Material

When considering composting, most people think of vegetable scraps, cardboard, and garden waste. However, you'd be surprised by just how much you can compost. Any sort of organic matter can work in a compost pile. Break it down into small pieces if you want to speed up composting. Some unexpected but very effective additions to compost heaps include:

  1. Crushed eggshells
  2. Hair or pet fur
  3. Paper food containers
  4. Toilet paper or paper towels
  5. Tea bags
  6. Manure from herbivores like horses
  7. Algae from freshwater aquariums
  8. Dryer lint

Find Ways to Keep Out Pests

A compost heap can attract raccoons, rats, and other pests, even in urban environments. The occasional curious animal is fine. They can add some helpful aeration to your bin as they dig around. Some creepy crawlies like worms are even welcome compost residents.

However, if you're getting animals scattering waste everywhere and disrupting your heap, try some preventative measures. Adding more brown material can cut back on the fly and beetle infestations. Avoid adding anything with oil or meat that could attract scavengers. You should also switch to a more secure compost bin. One with a lid, a floor, and metal sides can keep out more determined pests.

Learn How to Avoid a Stinky Heap

The ideal compost bin should smell like nothing more than rich, fertile soil with earthy or musky undertones. However, if bacterial balances inside the heap get out of control, you can have some genuinely revolting smells. If your smelly compost heap is wafting a sour, decaying stench around the yard, it's time to change how you're composting.

A smellier heap usually means you have too much nitrogen. It can often be fixed by adding more brown material and aerating the heap vigorously. Smells can also happen when your heap is waterlogged. If a particularly rainy season is drowning your compost, switch to a bin with a lid. A final tip for composting is to avoid any meat or dairy products. Not only do these ingredients compost poorly, but they smell pretty bad.

Use Your Finished Compost Wisely

Woman using coffee grounds in her plants

You've followed all the composting tips for a home garden and now have a heap of dark, crumbly compost. Now what? This is where the fun begins. Add your compost to your garden and watch your plants grow impressively. It works even better than other popular options like blood meal.

The best way to use compost is to mix it into soil two to three weeks before planting. This creates a nutrient-rich environment for young plants to grow in. If your garden has already started, sprinkling compost at the base of plants can further boost nutrition. You can also make compost tea by soaking finished compost in water for several days and watering your plants with the liquid.

Compost Your Way to a More Healthy and Productive Garden

With these composting tips for a home garden, you can create a more sustainable lifestyle and impressive home garden. Interested in finding other eco-friendly ways of living? Ivan the Solar Guy is here to help you improve your home and lifestyle. By adding solar power to your home, you can save money while switching to a cleaner, more renewable form of energy. To learn more about the benefits of going solar, contact Ivan the Solar Guy today!