Gardening is an enjoyable and rewarding hobby but when it comes to composting, the rewards can be even greater. Compost is full of nutrients and minerals that can help your plants thrive and it’s a great way to add natural organic matter into your soil. It helps in improving soil health that can turn into natural fertilizer for plants.
But have you ever wondered how to re-use your compost? Today, you’ll learn all about the best ways to repurpose and re-use your compost in gardening.
So let’s get started!
What is Composting and How It Works
When it comes to composting, there are two different types of systems: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic composting is when oxygen is present, while anaerobic composting is when oxygen is absent.
Aerobic composting is the more traditional method and the one that most people are familiar with. It’s also the method that yields the best results in terms of both time and quality. This type of composting relies on a good aeration system, typically provided by a rotating drum or tumbler, or turning it over with a shovel or pitchfork.
The process of aerobic composting can be divided into four main stages: precomposting, active composting, maturation, and curing.
The stage where organic materials are first introduced into the system. During this stage, the material will start to break down and decompose. The microorganisms that are responsible for this process will begin to multiply.
The second stage and is when the majority of decomposition takes place. The temperature inside the system will rise as microorganisms continue to break down organic matter. This increased temperature helps to accelerate the breakdown process.
The third stage and typically lasts for several weeks. During this time, the temperature inside the system will begin to decline as decomposition slows down. The material should be turned or mixed periodically during this stage to help evenly distribute moisture and nutrients.
The last and final stage. Curing is a technique used to improve the quality of thermally processed finished compost. Curing compost entails preparing it for its intended purpose by conditioning it and making it safe and effective. The basic mechanics of curing consist of maintaining the pile in an optimal environment for the favorable growth and function of microorganisms.
Basic Compost Recipe
Assuming you already have a bin or pile for your compost, mix in some:
- chopped up leaves
- other yard waste
You can also add:
- fruit and vegetable scraps
- coffee grounds
- manure from herbivores
The key is to keep the compost moist but not too wet—add water if it looks dry. Compost should smell earthy, not rotting.
Every few weeks, turn the compost with a pitchfork to aerate it and help speed up the decomposition process. Your compost is ready to use when it’s dark and crumbly.
Troubleshooting Tips for Compost
If your compost is wet and soggy, add more dry, carbon-rich materials such as:
- dead leaves
- shredded newspaper
- shredded cardboard
If your compost is too dry, add more green materials such as:
- grass clippings
- fruit scraps
- vegetable scraps
If your compost smells bad, turn it more frequently so that oxygen can reach all parts of the pile. You may also need to add more green materials to increase the ratio of nitrogen to carbon.
More Uses for your Compost
After you’ve used your compost to improve your garden soil, there are plenty of other ways to put this nutrient-rich material to good use. Here are a few ideas:
- Mulch: A layer of compost spread over the surface of the soil helps moderate temperature swings, conserve moisture, and prevent weeds.
- Fertilize houseplants: Mix some compost into the potting mix when repotting or transplanting houseplants. The compost will help them get off to a good start.
- Make seed starter pots: Fill biodegradable pots with a mixture of compost and sand or vermiculite for starting seeds indoors. Once the seedlings are big enough to handle, transplant them – pot and all – into the garden.
- Improve potted plant drainage: To promote drainage in potted plants, add a layer of coarse gravel or small rocks to the bottom of the pot before filling it with soil. Or, mix some perlite (a lightweight volcanic rock) or builder’s sand into the potting mix.
Composting is a great way to recycle your organic materials and use them to make your garden thrive. It can be used in several different ways, from fertilizing soil and repelling pests to improving aeration and drainage.
By understanding how compost works and learning more about simple methods of re-using it, you’ll have an easy solution for turning waste into gold every time.