Everyone wants a beautiful, thriving garden full of lush plants that enhance the curb appeal of their home or yield delicious vegetables and herbs that can be enjoyed by the whole family. To achieve the garden of your dreams, you need to lay the groundwork, and we mean that literally. Good, nutrient-rich soil is the first step to providing the proper environment for plants to grow and thrive. Sure, you can visit the local nursery to buy soil and fertilizers, but what if you saved your money and (re)used waste items from your own home?
Compost is made up of organic matter such as food scraps and yard waste that you’re most likely throwing away. Composting these items keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that adds to the warming of the earth’s surface. Compostable materials are a combination of dry, carbon-based “browns” (cardboard, paper, sawdust, or wood chips), wet nitrogen-rich “greens” (food scraps like apple cores, coffee grinds or banana peels) and water and air. Compost is used to enrich the soil by encouraging the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material. The process also helps to retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests, plus it reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Ultimately, you not only end up with a natural additive to enhance your garden, you also create a lot less trash.
What’s in Storing
Assuming you have outdoor space for a bin, first, you need to select said bin. There are a variety of sizes and types; some that allow you to spin and rotate to aerate the materials; others that perform this task automatically. Judge how much waste you produce, the amount of compost you may need and your price range to find the perfect bin for your needs. Next, select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin. Depending how often you want to make the trip to the backyard to empty your organic waste, you can choose to store your compost in a container on the counter or in the freezer. Like the outdoor bin, there are a variety of storage options on the market.
Let the Composting Begin
After your compost bin is set up, begin adding your brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure that larger pieces are chopped or shredded. Moisten dry materials as they are added. After your compost gets established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under about 10 inches of compost material, or rotate your bin if you purchased one that turns.
Is it Ready Yet?
Your composting environment has a lot to do with how long it takes to mature. If the weather’s hot, the process could take only a couple of months, if it’s cooler it could take six months or even up to a year for every component to break down. Don’t rush it, though. Using compost before it’s ready can attract pests, damage garden plants and also use up nutrients in your soil, making these same nutrients unavailable to your garden plants. To make sure that your compost is ready to use, grab a handful and have a look. Mature compost should be crumbly and smooth, have a smell that’s sweetly fragrant and loamy (like the forest on a wet day) and be a dark, rich color.
It’s Ready. Now What?
There are a variety of ways to use your compost. Let us count just a few.
1. Use it as a mulch to boost your garden’s harvest. Just apply the compost in a three- to six-inch layer and rake until even.
2. Make your own potting soil. Combine equal parts compost, vermiculite and topsoil, both of which should be available at your local gardening center.
3. Feed fall perennials or spring bulbs by adding two to four cups of compost to the hole where you plant them, which will help extend their bloom time.
4. Spread on your new or established lawn by adding a one- to two-inch layer of compost on top of your lawn.
5. Add to the top of your garden beds and let the rains wash the nutrients down to root level. Worms do the rest of the work, pulling the organic matter into the soil.
6. Add as a fertilizer to fruit trees in early spring before buds open.
7. Feed container plants by adding compost to the soil around your outdoor potted plants or when you’re transferring them to bigger pots.
8. Melons, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash need lots of nitrogen to produce, so add compost to the planting holes or top dress a few times during the growing season to boost your yield.
Want to do More? Belgard Can Help.
If you’re looking at installing new pavers this year and want to incorporate sustainability into the process, Belgard has the right pavers for the job. By using permeable concrete pavers and permeable grass pavers on your patio, walkway or driveway, any rain that falls seeps back into the ground through an aquifer system below. This process reduces the burden on storm drains and helps eliminate stormwater runoff that carries pollution into nearby waterways. A permeable paver system can even be designed to harvest and recycle rainwater for a double dose of environmentalism.