Essentials of Composting 101
No matter what your soil conditions, an addition of compost will make it into a healthy growth medium for plants. Compost may be worked into the soil by hand, by tilling or added as a top dressing. It also makes a very suitable mulch.
Benefits of composting are numerous. Compost enhances the soil, builds up both the structure as well as the texture. It increases airflow & water retention. Compost helps to stabilize pH levels along with supporting essential bacteria. Compost develops the effective use nutrients for obtaining healthier growth.
Additionally, organic matter found in compost encourages and promotes earthworms whose activity helps aerate the soil. Other benefits include reduction of soil-borne diseases erosion along with erosion control.
Mechanics of Composting
Compost is composed of organic materials that break down in the soil due to bacterial & environmental action,Â In doing so so the enrichment soil structure is done along with adding essential nutrients for plant growth & production. In order to fully understand the composting process, one must look at the natural decomposition process. Wooded areas are filled with organic materials. These include tree detritus, leaves, small branches, twigs, animal waste, etc. Over time all of these materials eventually decompose. This is done with the help of micro-organisms & earthworms. When materials have decomposed, the resultant matter is called humus. Humus is an essential element in the composition of fertile, rich soil. It is responsible for producing healthy plants.
This process is similar to garden composting. Once decomposition has taken place in the compost pile it will result in a form of humus with a dark, crumbly, soil-like material.
Making Your Compost
Composting instructions vary but they share the same basic principles. Passive composting methods are those most often used. This method involves small piles of compost contained in a bin, enclosure or some sort of compost containers. These may vary with sizes ranging between 5'-7' in diameter by 3'-4't high. A much more manageable size is no larger than 3'x 3'. It is easy to set up your composting system to meet your specific needs.
Compost is made up of organic materials like leaves, lawn clippings, prunings, garden plants, newspaper, straw,Â manure & kitchen scraps. Kitchen waste will include such materials as vegetable peelings, fruit peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc. Meat, fat & bone products should not be included in a compost pile.
One must alternate layers of green & brown materials. Green items include grass clippings & kitchen scraps. These add nitrogen to the compost. Brown materials add carbon to compost containers & consist of things such as leaves, newspaper & small woody materials like saw dust wood chips, etc..
Moisture as well as adequate air circulation are vitally necessary for composting. Compst should be kept wet but not soggy. Additionally compost should be frequently turned, usually with a garden fork, to aid the aeration & to speed up the decomposition process.
Decomposition can take anywhere from several weeks or months up to a year, dependent upon the materials used & the size of one's compost pile.
If you are doing container gardening then comp[osting can really benefit you. it allows you to iuse one soil source that you control.
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Copyright © 2012-2013 Donald R Houston, PhD. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.