A mixture of organic materials such as leaves, yard clippings, small twigs and even some compostable kitchen scraps that have gone through the decomposition process is known as compost. Many people engage in the composting practice in order to recycle the organic materials around their home and property.
This allows people to enjoy the resulting nutrient rich muck that can be used in the garden, while also keeping their yard and kitchen waste out of a landfill site. In fact, to avid gardeners, compost is highly regarded and considered the “black gold” of garden fertilizers.
Material that has gone through the composting process ends up producing a wonderfully rich material that is filled with minerals and nutrients that are well suited to encouraging lush and healthy growth of new plants.
Composting ends up creating a wonderfully rich organic material that can be mixed in with virtually any type of soil to improve it and to prepare it for plants. Sandy soils are improved with the addition of compost because it helps retain moisture. Clay soils become much easier to work with when compost is added and makes the soil able to handle an improved variety of plant types.
How Does the Composting Process Work
The composting process involves four different components that are required to create a mixture that will deliver the sought-after benefits. These four key components are organic matter, correct moisture, sufficient oxygen and bacteria.
The organic materials suitable for composters include various plant materials, food scraps, and some varieties of animal manure. Good compost should include a mix of brown organic material and green organic material. The brown organic matter includes such as dead leaves, twigs, and manure. The green material will be comprised of things such as grass clippings, hedge trimmings, coffee grounds, fruit rinds and vegetable waste.
The brown materials provide carbon for the mixture, while the green materials bring in supplies of needed nitrogen. As much as possible, it is best to try to maintain a one to one ratio of brown material to green material to produce the best final compost. If you have a compost pile that contains more brown material than green, then you can add in a handful of 10-10-10 fertilizer. This will add nitrogen and will speed up the decomposition process.
Sometimes it is helpful to shred, chop or mow the available materials into smaller pieces. This will serve to speed up the composting process because the smaller the pieces of material are the greater the surface area.
The proper moisture levels are important to a successful composting process. It is said that the compost pile should have about the same amount of moisture as a sponge that has been wrung out by hand. If the compost pile is too dry, then the decomposition slows down. You can simply add some water to the pile during dry weather periods or any time when a lot of brown material has been added to help keep the process moving along.
Should the compost become too wet, simply dig in and turn the pile to mix the materials and spread the moisture. You can also add some brown organic materials that are very dry to help balance things out.
Sufficient oxygen is also a key element that is necessary for decomposition. Oxygen supports the breakdown of the organic materials by the bacteria. Supplying oxygen to the compost pile is as simple as turning the compost so the materials at the outer edges of the pile are moved to the center. This also helps to control odors that can develop. The pile should be turned about every two weeks for best results.
It is the bacteria, and other types of microorganisms, that do the real work involved in the composting process. With the other needed elements in place, the bacteria can go to work breaking down the organic components into the compost that will benefit the organic garden.
When the composting cycle has turned the organic waste matter into a muck that is rich in nutrients, you will be able to easily add it to your garden soil. While preparing your soil for a spring planting, simply cover the ground with about 3-4 inches of the compost and then till the soil to mix it in well. In no time you will start to see a healthy and vibrant garden.