Let me just be up front and say this is my very first time working with compost. We are new to having our own homestead though we are familiar with gardening and living off the land. Since moving here in December we have been slowly getting things in place as we transition into the homestead lifestyle. Both my husband and I enjoy a slower paced way of life and want to teach our boys WHERE and HOW we get our food.
There really isn’t much like growing your own veggies and knowing exactly what went into your food when you harvest it for the table. The most important part of a garden is having a good healthy soil. Without getting into all the sciency stuff, because I really don’t understand it anyway, your soil needs an appropriate balance of nutrients for plants to grow successfully. That’s really allyou need to know.
With that being said, in prepration for my raised garden beds, my soil needs some attention. This is the first time the ground has been turned in this spot and composting is a new venture for me. In my research I have found that there are different methods for achieving a nutrient rich compost but the basics are really the same.
Compost is made up of layers of organic materials that when decomposed together create a good blend of nitrogen and carbon. As the materials decompose the center heats up. When this happens it’s time to turn or rotate (if using a tumbler) so anything harmful can be exposed to the high temps and killed off. Once the compost stops heating up it’s considered “finished”. A completely cured compost, ready for soil application, can take anywhere from one to three months. Ideally you would want to create your compost in the fall so it is ready for Spring planting.
To start you’re gonna need a place for your magical mixture. Foe me and my kitchen garden I have this tumbler. I scored this on new in the box at a yardsale a couple summers ago but you can get the exact same one from Amazon. I will LINK IT HERE if you’re interested.
Begin with dry plant material. Think dry leaves from the fall or even old corn stalks. Then add a layer of moist green material. I have been weeding my flower beds and tossing them into a bucket for this layer. Sprinkle in a thin layer of garden soil before adding the next dry layer. It is recommended that if you are adding manure to add it in with the green layer with adds more nitrogen to the mix. Compost scientist (again not me) say the fastest way to produce a good fertile compost is to keep a ratio of 25-30:1.
So what does this all mean and why does it matter?
Well if you’re like me you don’t really care about all this scientific jargon, I usually leave that up to my husband. He eats this kind of stuff up. BUT alas! If you want the tastiest fruits and veggies and the prettiest flowers, those things don’t happen by accident! If I can learn to do this so can you!
So in a nutshell, if your Carbon:Nitrogen levels are too high then your decomposition will slow down and you’re left with a useless pile of waste. If the ratio is too low then your compost will stink to high heaven and nobody wants that! You want to find that sweet spot. As for us, this is out first go at it! and of course I will be sharing updates and keeping you posted on what (and what not to do)
That is why I am constantly referring to this process as a journey. I may not know all the things but the fun part is learning how and sharing my insights! If you are an experienced composter please share your thoughts in the comments! I would love to know what has worked for you and your soil!
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