Recipe for Garden Compost

Photo: Tumbling compost bin
90% of gardening success is soil preparation. Here’s how to improve yours with better compost.

Composting is nature’s way of recycling nutrients and organic matter back into the soil to improve its fertility for new and growing plants. It has been around for centuries it’s easy to get started; all you need is a composting bin, compostable material and some patience.

Choosing a Compost Bin

There are many options when it comes to choosing an appropriate composter. Choices include plastic, wood, wire or just a ‘heap.’ If you have a lot of compostable material, your best choice may be building a large compost bin. If you have food scraps and a small amount of garden waste then purchasing one is a safe bet. I like tumbling compost bins: you can spin them once a week to aerate the mixture so it decomposes faster.

What Can You Compost?

As a good rule of thumb you can compost pretty much anything that once lived. For example food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, teabags, etc. However, there are a few things you should leave out in order to avoid any problems in the future. Do not compost bones, dairy, fatty/oily foods, fish, meat, or weeds. These materials can produce foul odours and attract unwanted wildlife to the compost heap.

Compost Recipe

When adding material to your compost bin, remember the golden ratio of 30:1. That is, 30 parts carbon (the ‘brown’ stuff) to 1 part nitrogen (the green stuff). The brown stuff includes bark, leaves, twigs and straw. Green stuff comes from food and garden waste, grass clippings or hedge trimmings. This ratio is ideal for the functioning of the bacteria and fungi inside the pile that break down the material into compost. Keep the moisture in the pile similar to that of a squeezed-out sponge. This will ensure that your compost heats up fast and decomposes quickly.

After you have added material to the pile or placed it into the bin, turn the heap twice a week or so to introduce fresh oxygen into the centre, bringing the material from the sides into the middle to help even out the composting rate. If space permits, you can add material to the composter all year round, even in the winter.

Compost is ready once the ingredients have fully decomposed. Finished compost can be turned into the soil or spread over the soil surface. Add a 2” layer to the garden in the spring and/or fall.

Green gardener Mark Cullen is a radio and TV personality, author of 18 gardening books and answers thousands of questions at www.markcullen.com.