Compost is one of the easiest and best things to make for your garden. Two methods are utilized by the majority of home gardeners. They’re called hot and cold composting. Both are equally effective. However, some people prefer one over another based on environmental conditions, materials available and the amount of effort each takes.
Making a Compost Bin
A compost bin is extremely simple to build and will contain your scraps until they become compost. The type you prefer will depend on whether you want a permanent or temporary one. Although plastic bins are available at most garden centers, it’s easy to build your own square or round structure with fencing and wire.
A temporary bin is at least 3′ cubed made of untreated wood or metal fence posts for the frame then wrapped in wire. Make sure that the wire used is small enough that materials can’t fall out. When the compost is ready to use all you do is unwrap the wire and used the compost from the bottom of the pile. You can then re-pile the part that is still decomposing and start a new batch. For a permanent bin, you can use the same dimensions but make it out of untreated wood or masonry block.
Materials That can be Used as Compost
- From the House – Fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, and shredded newspaper
- From the Yard – Grass and plant clippings, dry leaves and chips of finely chopped wood and bark
- From the Barn and Workshop – Straw and sawdust from untreated wood
- Never use – Meat, oil, fat, grease, diseased plants, pressure-treated wood scraps, dog or cat poop, weeds that have seeds, or dairy products
Hot vs Cold Composting
With cold composting simply collect the organic materials in your bin and wait about a year or so. It is then ready to use. The disadvantage is that you fill the bin once then for the rest of the year you have no place to put your recycled materials. This can be a real waste as compost is much better than any other kind of fertilizer.
Hot composting, on the other hand, will generate usable compost in 1-3 months when the weather is warm. Wait until your pile is at least 3 feet deep. The materials listed above should be layered in the bin like when making lasagna: house scraps, yard scraps, etc. and repeat. The pile should be watered only enough to keep it the consistency of a damp sponge. It should also be turned once or twice per week in order to ensure that oxygen is evenly distributed throughout.
When the temperature in the center is between 130 and 150 degrees, it’s time to turn the pile. That helps it cook faster which will prevent it from developing a bad odor. When the pile quits generating heat and becomes dry and crumbly to the touch, it’s time to add it to the garden.
Although many people begin composting in order to control the waste generated in a home, there are many perks to making your own. Primarily it improves soil composition and structure, increases the nutrient content, wards off different kinds of plant diseases and allows gardening with less water. By creating a plan and using some simple tips it’s a project anyone can do successfully.