Compost-it is good for the environment and good for your gardens!
What is compost?
The secret to a successful garden and landscape is to add organic matter to the soil. It helps the soil hold water and allows the plants to push their roots through it to collect water and nutrients as well as to hold on so they don’t blow or fall over. With a little effort and knowledge, this material can be free from your own yard and home. The secret is compost, which is often referred to as black gold by gardeners worldwide.
Compost is the decomposed organic material that has many uses in your garden and yard. It’s easy to collect kitchen waste and add it to leaves from your landscape, and in no time, your magic stuff will appear. Be sure to keep meat and other animal-based materials out of your compost bin/pile. We refer to these items as “green” and “brown” layers in a compost pile. Composting really is easy—check out the quick book on Composting from Miami Dade IFAS Horticulture
Still not sure about those “Browns” and “Greens” they keep talking about in composting school Eddie Powell does a great job breaking it down and he has some nice pictures of some pallet compost bins too. You don’t “have” to have a compost bin but it does help to keep things together.
A pile more than 4 feet in diameter is recommended as it will slowly heat up killing many of the weeds, insects, diseases, and nematodes that may be present. Remember to turn your pile every once in a while, and keep it moist but not wet for best results. Check the internal temperature and turn over the mixture when it reaches 140°F.The compost pile should be built in layers 3-4 inches deep. Composting still happens if the pile is not turned, it just breaks down slower. Florida’s Online composting center has good information available to compare the costs and kinds of bins: http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu/compost-info/.
You can use either the biological agents (fancy word for the bacterial, fungus and other organisms) already in the items that you have put into your bins or you can use worms, which is called vermiculture.
Vermiculture not only gives you compost at the end of the cycle but also gives you the nutrient rich worm casings (aka. Worm poop) which stays right in your humus (the end result when you can no longer recognize the individual parts of the items you put into the compost bin).
Which one is better? They are both good and neither one is better than the other. It is a question of which one will work better for your situation.
Want to know more about using compost to grow earthworms or how to construct a worm bin? Earthworm Biology and Production would be the place to go at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IN047
Vegetable and food scraps
Dried leaves, grass, mulch or hay
Egg yolks (attracts vermin)
Still not sure if you are doing it right? No problem! Use the Florida Compost Analyzer to improve your mulch making. It can be found on the internet http://compost.ifas.ufl.edu/ .
Uses of Compost:
- Use compost as mulch – composted yard waste can be used to help conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and provide a limited amount of nutrients to plants. If you have soil that has lots of shell rock in it, this is one of the few ways to reduce high pH levels of these alkaline soils.
- Use it as a potting mix and blend it with potting soil for container plants
- Use compost tea as a starter solution – a solution of compost seeped in water can provide some soluble nutrients to newly transplanted plants in the landscape and garden. Visit this website for more information: http://www.composttea.org/
- Manage garden and landscape pests without chemicals – the use of chemical pesticides can often destroy good bugs along with bad. And, chemical pesticides may also reduce the number of decomposing organisms that make compost happen.
What happens if you use compost before its time (it is mature)?
Use of immature compost can cause detrimental effects on plant growth (germination can drop to less than 60%).
Can possibly causing plant Nitrogen deficiency depending on what the carbon to nitrogen ratio is and how “green” the composting materials are at that point in time.
Manure that is left sitting in a pile for a year that is not mixed with anything else is NOT compost and never will be compost. Leaves left sitting in a pile for a year that are not mixed with anything else is NOT compost.
COMPOST It’s a wonderful thing! University of Florida/IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension
Understanding the Greens and Browns of Compost
Eddie Powell, University of Florida/IFAS Escambia County Extension
Composting, Living in Harmony, University of Florida/IFAS