My first guest post...I'm so excited!
Welcome, and special thanks to Steve Jones, who writes a gardening blog I've been following called Compostings. http://compostings.wordpress.com/. Have I mentioned before that I'm an organic gardener? (A hack, but the idea of being self-sustaining, and teaching my kids where food comes from is important to me.) Although we've never met, Steve & I share a gardening kinship. Like me, he's been trying to make his mark on the world one GREEN step at a time. When I needed to ask whether or not I should continue to haul my kitchen scraps out to my garden compost bin in the cold of winter, he said I could find my answer in the following post. Thanks again, Steve!
Oh the joys of composting! It’s like nature has given us permission to litter. Go ahead! Throw out your potato peels! I’ll just be sitting here breaking it all down with the help of microbes.
Still, there are rules and they are pretty simple.
1. Throwing stuff into a compost pile is fun, but it will really only benefit your compost if it’s raw vegetable matter, shells, cardboard, leaves, grass clippings, sawdust, ash, coffee grounds, coffee filters, fruit scraps, bread, bits of old cereal/pasta.
2. A ratio of carbon to nitrogen is important. Carbon stuff (brown things, cardboard, leaves) combined with nitrogen stuff (green things, vegetables, grass, fruit) is what makes it all work. Low carbon/nitrogen ratios (things like veggie scraps have a 15:1) with high (leaves are 55:1 and cardboard is 500:1) need to be combined in a way that creates a balance of about 25:1. Don’t sweat it. You’ll see. Stuff wants to decompose.
3. Some piles of compost burn hot. Others are cool. It’s all about the spot and the carbon/nitrogen mix.
For most of us, it’s easiest to create a slow pile of compost. This requires a few things.
1. As you clean up the garden, mow the lawn or rake the leaves, pile everything in one place that you think is okay for composting. Some sun exposure is okay especially for the winter.
2. The smaller you chop everything, the faster it will all break down.
3. You can add kitchen waste, vegetables etc. to the pile whenever.
This slow building pile will compost pretty slowly. You will probably have a higher concentration of carbon because you have a lot of leaves in it. That’s okay. Just add as much green, nitrogen stuff as you can. Manure is okay (carbon:nitrogen of about 30:1), but you will need to be certain it is very well rotted and composted before you use the resulting compost.
With this kind of slow pile, you can get it wet, turn it every once in a while. It will compost. It just will happen over a year or so. The more nitrogen you add to a big carbon pile (especially if you used a lot of leaves), the faster you’ll cook it. And it will compost through the winter. Don’t stop just because the weather is cold!
If you have a devoted compost bin or a ready pile (a pile that was built with all of the right balance of ingredients ahead of time), you’ll probably be fast or hot composting. This is great! Those kinds of piles take a couple of turns (mixing the ingredients) and happen pretty quickly. And, once again, the composting doesn’t stop just because it’s winter.
If you are interested, I’ve got a quick tutorial on how to turn a plastic garbage can into a little hot composter. The link is http://compostings.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/cheap-garbage-can-composter/ .
There are other articles on my blog about it, but you might want to watch a quick video I did showing what to do with bags, and bags, and bags of leaves. http://compostings.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/old-compost-pile-gets-some-stuff/
That’s about it! There are plenty of other composting/littering techniques to learn about – of particular interest might be vermicomposting (earthworms!). Composting is a simple way to help the environment and it is the single greatest thing you can do for your flower or vegetable garden.