Fall Cleanup tip - "Turn your leftovers into Black Gold"
October may not seem like an ideal time to start a garden project but it is the PERFECT month to start a composting system! A lot of people don't care for the idea of having a compost in their backyard. They think it will smell and attract unwanted rodents, but that is not the case. Here's how it works; mixing your compost with the right ingredients is key. Composting works by naturally breaking down the organic matter to create a nutrient-rich soil additive. This allows you to feed your lawn and shrubs the most nutritious soil they can get. And the best part, it's free! Here's a step by step guide on how to get your compost up and running!
Step One: How to make a compost
You want to make sure you pick a level piece of land for your compost to live. You should pick a 3-5 foot area, sheltered from direct sunlight and runoff. You can purchase already made composts or make your own with leftover wood pieces; chicken wire is also commonly used. Leaving enough room on the inside of the compost is important for aeration.
Step Two: Use the right ingredients
Having a compost doesn't mean you can throw anything in there and it will turn to soil. You want to make sure you use the right ingredients (even amounts of "Brown & Green") to make the most nutritious soil you can. The "Brown" part would include broken up tree branches, grass clippings, and wood chips. "Green" ingredients would include any fruit or vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, and grass clippings. Be aware that you DO NOT want to include grass clippings in your compost if you use pesticides and ABSOLUTELY NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS (such as cheese, meat, etc.) as this pose harm to future growth. And just like every recipe, an order is key. When composting, you don't want to just dump everything in without some sort of order. Having a layer of brown than green is ideal. You also want to be sure to chop any large items up as well. This is key for proper aeration.
Step Three: Aeration
Aeration is essential for a healthy composting system. Once a week, take a garden fork and poke a few holes around to allow for proper distribution of air and moisture. You can add bark mulch to the mix to create air pockets that prevent compaction. This is not a substitute, though.
Step Four: Watering
Your compost mixture needs to be moist. As you add items to your compost, mist the pile using a sprayer. You want to test your mixture by squeezing it. If water drips out, mix your pile up some more to evenly distribute the moisture. And don't forget your gloves!
Step Five: Getting the right temperature
Ideal pile temperature should be 100-145 degrees. The microbes break down the material causing the internal temperature to rise. So don't be alarmed if you see a lite stream of steam coming from your compost pile. If you find your pile is too hot, simply add more material. If you pile is too cool, you may need to buy a compost sprinkle, which can be found at your local garden market. **Also, worms are a sign of a healthy mix.
Step Six: Testing
Now comes the easier part! Once Springtime comes, you want to test your soil to make sure it is healthy for your lawn. Simply gather a small pots worth of soil, place in a pot and sprinkle with grass seed. If you have grass sprout after about a week, you are good to go!