Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning to Compost

Who'd have thunk composting would be so complicated. Like everything else there are a million ways to achieve the same results. I suppose finding what works for you is the key.

I want to use compost for our family garden, but there are several different ways to compost. From composting kitchen scraps, doing it with worms, even using pet waste. I like the idea of composting with worms, but apparently not just any old garden variety night crawler will work. Different worms like to eat different things. The red wriggler seems to be the compost worm. You'll have to keep checking back for my progress, but I'm going to start on a much easier project and build up to worms.

I'm going to start with the kitchen compost method: a composting kit with a filter and activator and a canister under the sink with a tight lid. The tight lid is important as I can't imagine rotting food under my sink smelling that great.

Some of the composting methods I have found are not allowed in all cities. According to the California state website, some cities require compost to be covered. I have also read it can take up to a year for some of the methods to produce anything worth using.

From what I gather, you can compost only what came from a plant. Colored paper, inks and bacon grease will poison your compost. Weeds are iffy; they say weeds are OK before they seed. I however am not educated in weed seeds so I'll pass. Egg shells crushed and coffee grounds are OK. Pet waste should not be added to compost for your vegetable garden.

The methods all include layers. If it's a pile in the back yard, in a bin or a tumbler, they all say to start with a layer of twigs on the bottom. After you add household waste you should add a thin layer of yard clippings. Leaves are better if dried and crushed or added as a compost tea. Moisture is important. Most of the blogs/websites I read say rain will do the trick but to not let it get soggy. Covers on piles or containers will help keep in moisture. Occasionally this will also make the compost steam. This is good. It means the compost is doing what it should.

The preferred compost methods depend on the size of garden. The kitchen canister is good for apartments and smaller gardens. The three-sided, outside compost bin or pile is better for large gardens. For a medium sized garden, a tumbler or a bin with holes should do.

Compost can be done a couple of ways. Some people will aerate it by turning it once a month or every six months. Some do the lazy method and just let it sit. Some add chicken or livestock manure. No matter how hands-on you are at stirring your compost, it will happen, and it will not smell like rot but sweet and earthy. Only one blog mentions it can take up to a year before you will get anything usable.

I am excited to try. Come back later to learn about compost tea; I am still learning about that. I hear it's great for lawns and will help your soil restore to an organic condition in about three years.

Links I read for my info:

No comments: