While there are different ways to make compost, I personally have tried a variety of ways, which includes using a composter and adding a special mixture to it to speed up decomposition both store bought and homemade. I have also tried using worms in a large tub of compostable materials and direct composting in the earth and in flower pots. What is certain is that there are different methods that have different time requirements to obtain a finished product. In addition, there are many things that can be done with the finished product to make it more beneficial to your garden. Depending on the type of accelerator used, store bought in comparison to homemade may not be less expensive. However, homemade ensures more control over what’s going into your soil and the food it produces. This post is the first of five posts on composting. You may not be an expert by the time you have read all five posts but you should have a better idea of what to do with your lawn clippings, fallen leaves, and green kitchen scraps when you have read the full series.
Ways to Compost
Direct Composting in Pots
I can say that composting in flower pots can have wonky results based on what is composted and when. For pots, it is best not to use fresh leaves or grass clippings. Moist items leads to fungus and soil born diseases. I got better results with just plain dry: leaves, sticks, twigs and grass clippings. However, it takes more than a season for the items to break down. Also, this method of dry leaves also helps to make the pots light and easy to transport as well as cut down on the need for soil. I have found that the decomposition time was significantly reduced when I sent the leaves, sticks and twigs through the wood chipper. Still, composting in pots can be done in two ways. The way I have just described in which I immediately plant or transplant an item into the pot. The other method involves adding some kind of organic compost accelerator to the layer of composting materials to speed up the breakdown of the materials. However, I do not recommend putting any growing plants, seeds or bulbs in the pot with the latter method until full breakdown is complete because the accelerator could kill the plant, seeds or bulbs.
The process is entails finding a sunny corner of your yard and making a pile, caged or loose, of composting materials. The beauty of this process is that it will receive full aeration, direct heat from the sun and rain water depending on the season. It also allows for easy tilling and rotation if the loose method is used. Furthermore, the worms have access to materials and will aid further in breakdown of the materials. In addition, the pile has the opportunity to break down into the ground as the process takes place, which helps to rejuvenate the area where the pile is kept. I usually make the pile inside a chicken coop wire cage. Unfortunately, the main problem with this is the pest control issues that results. It will attract squirrels, rats and other undesirables. As such, I recommend composting in a container that can be sealed to keep pests out. Also, exposure to too much rain water will slow the rate of decomp so during the rainy season your pile needs to be sheltered.
Basically what I do is after the planting season is over or in areas left fallow, I dig holes and drop the composting materials in the holes and bury them. This method works with both wet and dry composting materials. This method; however, takes more than a season to break down; especially when you have winters where the ground freezes. However, using the wood chipper increased the rate of decomposition. Addition of an organic compost accelerator also aided the process. This process can be sped up by covering the ground in late spring or early summer with a black tarp to heat the ground. Essentially the materials and the earth are baked, which speeds up the decomposition.
The best and fastest result I have had with composting was by using worms. I have a large tote storage bin that I drilled holes in. Once I layered the materials in the bins, I add anywhere from 300 to 1000 worms depending on how full the bin is. I keep the bin moist and occasionally rotate the materials taking care not to harm the worms. The materials they eat and pass out are called worm castings and they are excellent for plants. I know the material in the bins was especially good when after the season the worms got very long and fat. The worm castings are then used in the soil, mixed into pots and added to compost tea for the plants. At the end of the season the worms are either released into the soil or kept in the bin with more composting materials. I know this method is considered less composting and more in line of creating a worm farm but the results are virtually the same. The materials in the bin are broken down by the worms’ digestion process and are supercharged for the garden. The end result is worm castings, which is more powerful and beneficial for the garden in comparison to plain old compost.
Remember, if you try this out, please let me know the results you get. You can share your results on this blog or on my Facebook page.
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