Compost your way to an organic garden!

Nicole and Natalie sifting compost last fall at the Pioneer Gardens Soiree.

Sustainability Office interns sift compost last fall at the Pioneer Garden Soiree.

By Jayashree Lavanyan, Garden Steward, Edible Camps Gardens

Seasons will come and seasons will go…but the one thing that you can do year round to maintain your garden is compost! Though considerably slower in the winter season, the marvelous process of converting your scrap into eco-friendly plant-nourishment happens at it’s own pace. And now that spring is right around the corner, it’s just the right time to start your compost pile-if you haven’t already. It’s just the right time to spring into action and feel good about yourself for being so environmentally responsible.

Composting isn’t rocket science. It’s a very simple process when done right.

The first step to composting is to create an enclosure that will keep out pests and provide the right conditions for the process to occur. The structure must be able to retain moisture, generate sufficient heat, and there must be enough space to turn the compost. Moisture and heat are the two main factors that contribute to quick decomposition. Start the compost pile on bare earth, which will allow worms to wriggle through, worms are excellent catalysts for the decomposition process. Cover the bottom with straws or branches to provide good aeration.

The next step requires depositing alternate layers of green and brown materials, abundant in nitrogen and carbon respectively, into our piles. Green matter includes vegetable scraps from your kitchen, garden trimmings, coffee grounds etc… Brown matter ranges from dry leaves and straws to shredded newspaper and cardboard. Carbon provides the energy source for the micro-organisms to break down the green matter. The ideal carbon:nitrogen ratio for a nutritious heap is relatively 30:1. That translates to about one-third green and two-third brown. Once you’ve layered your scrap, the rest is up to the microbial community.

Periodic turning of the compost is essential because it helps aerate the pile and maintain sufficient heat. The final step in the process is sifting, where we isolate the decomposed material from that which is still decomposing.

Vermiculture is another easy composting method for reaping good yields in a short period of time. If you are trying your hand at worm composting in a bin, make sure to drill air holes and drainage holes in the compost bin, line it with proper bedding, keep it well hydrated, and away from light.

You can even take it up a notch by preparing compost tea, which is compost suspended in water. It’s believed that in addition to providing nutrition, it also suppresses fungal diseases in plants.

Composting is a win-win process for you and your garden. You’re reducing your waste footprint and producing rich nutrients for the soil at no cost! So, go on…grab those trash cans and get started!

Head over to the Pioneer Gardens on Thursday, March 3 at 3:00 PM to know more about the nitty-gritty of composting!

Jayashree is a Computer Engineering student at the U, who is just learning how awesome gardening can be and is writing blogs to let more people in on that secret!

2 responses to “Compost your way to an organic garden!

  1. Are there classes about this? Where can I go to get a metal wire thing like that to hold the compost pile? Also, I recommend recycledearth.com for people who want to buy soil to be delivered, for a garden. They are in Ogden, UT.

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