The backyard compost pile is the ideal way to reuse most of your garden and kitchen waste and get benefits galore. Composting is a way of speeding up the natural process of decomposition breaking down organic materials. The decay process happens naturally but slowly. The moisture, and air circulation of a compost pile encourages this process. Composting converts plant and other organic wastes into a loose, peat like humus providing nutrients and increasing soil’s ability to hold water.
Composting can save money otherwise spent on soil conditioners and fertilizer. It can save time, as well giving you a place to dispose of grass clippings, weeds, and other garden debris.
Garden waste can be turned into good compost in less than a year if the pile is properly managed. When the compost is ready — coarse, dark brown, peat-like material — it can be used for many purposes. Compost can be added to potting soil for starting garden seeds indoors and used as a mulch to protect a plant’s roots from the hot, dry summer sun. Compost is an excellent material to incorporate into garden soil to help control moisture: either increasing the water-holding capacity in sandy soils or improving drainage in heavy clay soils. The more organic matter you add, the more you improve the texture of the soil. Blend the compost into the soil to a depth of 12 inches, making sure it is evenly dispersed through the entire planting area. When compost is added to the soil, it will absorb some of the soil’s nitrogen.
Except for diseased and pest-laden materials or materials that have been treated with herbicides, almost any type of garden waste can be composted. You can also use such kitchen leftovers as vegetable and fruit peels, vegetable tops, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and eggshells. Don’t use meat products or greasy foods, which tend to smell bad and attract animals. Composting material should be kept moist but not soggy, and it should be supplied with a nitrogen fertilizer (manure, dried blood, bone meal, or commercial fertilizer) to keep the microorganisms active for faster decay.
There are many composting devices on the market. Each has its own advantages, but doesn’t need to be fancy to work well. A simple bin made with old cinder blocks, lumber, or fencing material can be used. Your compost is ready to use when the materials have decayed to such an extent that the individual ingredients of which it is composed can no longer be distinguished. Usually the material is in an ideal condition when it has become a dark, friable or crumbly mass.