Compost is natures perfect mulch, soil amendment and organic fertilizer. It doesnt cost a penny to make. Just toss grass clippings, leaves, plant trimmings and even coffee grounds into an open pile or bin in the garden, and in about eight weeks, youll have free fertilizer to spread on the soil around plants, even houseplants.
Any time is a good time to start a new pile, but it will start decomposing faster if temperatures are above 50 degrees, says Barbara Pleasant, author of The Complete Compost Gardening Guide.
Heres what you need to know to create compost:
- Use 25 parts brown, carbon-rich organic materials to one part green, nitrogen-rich matter and the compost pile should begin decomposing immediately. Brown materials are dried leaves, straw and wood chips. Green materials are grass clippings, kitchen scraps (except meat and fat), manure and garden refuse, including clippings, dead plants and fresh green leaves. Measure the amounts by weight.
- Shred materials to speed the composting process. Run over leaves with a mower. Cut large kitchen wastesuch as melon rindsinto small pieces, and crush eggshells.
- Thoroughly mix nitrogen-rich grass clippings with brown matter to avoid a smelly compost pile.
- Water the pile until its moist. Stir weekly.
- Dont compost grass clippings from lawns sprayed with herbicides. The chemicals will remain in the compost and kill plants.
- Avoid weeds in seed. The seeds can sprout in the compost and transfer to your garden.
- Store unused compost in buckets or an old trash can until needed, or use it to start another pile.
- Use black plastic trash bags to make small amounts of compost. Punch holes in the bags so that air enters and moisture drains away. Bags can be filled, dampened and stored in out-of-the-way spots, such as behind the trash cans or garage, to compost for a month or two. Turn them weekly to speed the process, and add water if bags feel light.