Composting is the process of using microorganisms to decompose organic material in a controlled manner in the presence of oxygen.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "There are many methods of composting, from the pile in the backyard to vermicomposting in your basement. Don't be intimidated by any one method. Find one that works for you."
You can create your own organic compost by building a pile on the ground and covering it to retain heat and moisture. If you want to use an enclosed space, you can use a bin. It is best to use a container that is covered and does not have any holes or gaps.
Choose a spot that is at least a couple of feet away from any nearby structures. The ideal location is a sunny spot in your garden.
Composting works best if you use an equal mixture of green and brown ingredients. Green ingredients for composting include manure, by-products of crops, vegetable peelings and grass clippings. Brown ingredients include leaves, straw, wood shavings, cardboard, waste paper, and sawdust.
Avoid ingredients such as meat, dairy products, cooked food, and cat or dog litter, as these can invite unwanted vermin. Avoid adding plants that suffer from root rot or other such soil-borne diseases. These diseases may be transferred to healthy plants even after the compost is complete.
Collect a mixture of equal amounts of green and brown ingredients in a bin. The mixture must make a layer at least 2 feet tall. A larger pile is even better. It will help retain the heat and moisture better. Mix the ingredients thoroughly, and water it as you mix. Over time, as the microbes begin to work on the compost, it will warm up. Turn the compost with a pitchfork every couple of weeks. When the mixture does not warm up anymore, stop turning the heap around, and leave it undisturbed. Always ensure that the heap is moist and aerated. Turning the pile aerates the compost.
Organic composting can take anywhere from 6 weeks to a year. The end result will be a condensed, dark brown, earthy substance that is pleasant smelling. For best results, let the compost mature for a couple of months before using it.
TIP: Karen suggests, "To speed the composting process finely shred all material before adding to the pile and turn the pile frequently."
- Acts as a fertilizer and supplies required nutrients that aid the growth of plants
- Helps plants build resistance to disease and pests
- Breaks down toxins in the soil, and improves its texture
- High in humus, improving soil fertility and structure. Humus also improves water retention
- Uses waste products to produce soil fertilizer. This also helps in reducing the load on landfills
- Save money, because it reduces the plants’ requirement for chemical pesticides and fertilizers
- Contains many important nutrients that are not found in chemical fertilizers
- Can be used as mulch, suppressing the growth of weeds, and reducing the required irrigation
- Helps in improving soil insulation
- Releases nutrients to plants slowly, compared to the large one-time dose of chemical fertilizers
- Helps in improving soil porosity and increases soil bulk by addition of humus and organic nutrients