Surprisingly there are several ways compost heaps can be made, and you will find that different people have different opinions on how a backyard gardener should treat them. Compost heaps are something that more and more people are making and what was once something only the keen gardeners had, is now something that ideally all gardens should have. Firstly it is a way to collect waste material and garden cuttings, secondly it feeds the soil helping your garden grow better plus it also helps the soil hold onto moisture helping you to avoid wasting water on watering when it is not needed.
Finally using an organic compost as a mulch on top of the soil around plants actually helps smother some weeds. Grow a backyard garden with your own compost you need to make sure of these things; that there is enough moisture but that it is not overly wet, and that there is drainage and aeration.
When you eat fresh vegetables, take the excess and chop them finely, then add them into your garden. The vegetables will quickly decay adding valuable nutrients back into your soil. Some can be used for composting of course, but using some of the waste immediately can be beneficial.
What is compost?
Compost is when organic materials such as grass cuttings, vegetable peels, rotting fruit or vegetables, raked leaves and so on are put into a pile or container with some water. Now and then this is turned and the bacteria created and the high heat breaks down those materials until it becomes soil like, rich and dark with an earthy smell. This can then be spread on your top soil. Large and small gardens benefit from making your own compost. If you do not have room for an outdoor one you can even do indoor composting in a tub under your kitchen sink using earthworms called vermiculite.
How to make compost
Believe it or not, pine makes great mulch. Some garden plants have a high acidity, and prefer acidic soil. For these types of plants, pine needles are wonderful for mulching. Simply add a layer of pine needles a couple of inches deep to the plant beds. The needles will decompose over time and provide the soil with acidity.
There are three key types of ingredients for compost making, green material, brown materials and water. Green material includes things like fruit cores, coffee grounds, eggshells, and vegetable peels and they are high in nitrogen. Most kitchen waste can be used though not dairy or meat. Grass clippings, weeds, and barnyard animals manure are also green materials that can be used.
Brown materials are things like sawdust, twigs, paper, straw, small branches and they are high in carbon. Finally you need some moisture to speed things up but do not make it too wet, it needs to be kept damp but it should not be dripping wet. Sometimes just rainfall is enough, but if you do not get enough rain one week add some water yourself. If the center gets hot then you have the right balance of ingredients and it is working.
Position of a compost heap
You should be planning on making your own compost in a part of the garden that is unobtrusive but avoid putting it where it is damp, or where it is too shaded. Its size depends on the size of your backyard garden and how dedicated you are to making your own compost and using it. Something that when first built is 3ft by 3ft or less for a small garden, should be adequate. Remember it will shrink a great deal as it decomposes. One way for it to not take up too much room, or be an unsightly part of the garden is to have it in a container. You can buy compost bins or you can make one yourself making sure you have a side that is hinged or removable so that you can fill and empty it easily.
Try using coffee grounds on the soil. Coffee grounds are filled with nitrogen, that is a nutrient required by plants. Nitrogen is generally a way to make your plants grow bigger, better and faster.
The rate of decay and air pockets
A compost heap is successful when there is decomposition which requires bacteria. Bacteria in turn need nitrogen to feed on. To speed up the rate of decomposition you can use a fertilizer with nitrogen in it on the compost heap or you can create layers of farm animal manure with the layers of green and brown materials. Be sure to get rid of pockets of air by pressing down on each layer placed. You can also buy preparations that are meant to speed up the decomposition.
Some can help break down the harder materials you may have in the heap such as bean husks, top growths and so on. Some are for softer materials such as vegetable peelings and lawn clippings. If you need to break down the tougher materials but you want to avoid buying products to help bruise them or cut them up into smaller pieces. Make sure there is room for air to get in too for example a backyard gardener might put in a couple of stakes in the heap and then once it is established, pull them out leaving the holes.
You can conserve more water by mulching your garden. Covering the ground with mulch cuts back on the need for watering your plants. Mulch can be purchased, or you can use leaves, tree bark or other organic material. It doesn’t matter as long as you have enough.
To help the process along after two or three weeks use a fork to turn the contents so that the contents on the outer side of the heap now sits in the center. Add water if there are areas that are dry but remember not too much. As a result of the decomposing matter acid will form, but a compost heap cannot be too acidic as it will be ruined. Therefore to prevent that add some lime by sprinkling powdered limestone or chalk on alternate layers or if you add a fertilizer you can use one that has lime in it. If you use an accelerator of sulphate of ammonia do not let the lime and it touch as it causes the nitrogen you want to be lost.
The season and the weather
Spring and autumn tend to be good times of the year for compost because there is warmth and also damp. In summer if a compost heap gets too much direct sun it can dry out if you do not water it. You also need to avoid leaving it open to too much rain as it will wash the nutrients away. Therefore you may want to think about making a shelter or at least a roof for it.
Understand the variety of natural grow backyard garden solutions that can be used to tend an organic garden. Use organic or natural alternatives in the place of the typical chemical fertilizers. One good example is compost. One advantage to using organic gardening methods as opposed to non-organic methods is that non-organic methods have a small chance of reducing soil quality or poisoning the water table.
When it is ready
How long it takes varies from one backyard gardener to another, so when making your own compost you will have to be the judge of when it is ready. Individual ingredients should not be identifiable, it should just be a dark crumbly state, not slimy – if it is slimy it was not done right. If the weather is warm it should be ready in around four to six weeks but in winter it can be much longer, three or even four months. If the matter you are adding is tough and hard it takes longer to break down too.