Make Your Own Garden Compost
Garden compost improves soil structure. Most gardeners don’t start with great soil. Whether yours is hard and compacted, sandy, stony, heavy, or wet, adding garden compost will improve its texture, water-holding capacity, and fertility. Prepare a 20-gallon plastic or wood bin for the compost pile. Drill several holes in each side of the bin for air circulation and put it in a moderately warm, protected location. Don’t leave the bin in hot, sunny locations or where it can be rained on, as these elements damage the composting balance. Fill the bin one-quarter full of garden or topsoil to give the compost structure. Add organic kitchen scraps like fruit, vegetables, bread, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves and nuts. Balance these nitrogen-rich scraps with carbon-rich garden scraps like leaves, grass, wood, dryer lint, manure, straw and animal bedding. Add paper goods like cardboard, paper and tissue from the house. Use a wide range of ingredients for balanced, healthy garden compost. Water the compost until it’s moist throughout, but not soggy. Garden compost requires consistent, steady moisture content for breakdown.
Never over water, as garden compost cools, then rots when it gets too wet. Stir the compost twice a day. The microorganisms responsible for breaking down the compost need air to do their job, and suffocate without adequate aeration. Mix the compost more often for quicker breakdown. “Feed” the compost pile once a week for best results. Mix new additions into the compost, then water to maintain moisture. Harvest the compost when it reaches a uniformly dark, crumbly consistency. Harvest time ranges from several weeks to several months, depending on mixing and weather. Take dark and crumbly material only, and leave unfinished compost in the bin for more mixing.