Garden Basics

Composting: Things You Should Know

Composting is a fun, healthy and rewarding thing to do at home.  There's a reason it's called 'Black Gold'.  Nothing goes to waste in my kitchen and garden.

Compost enriches the soil and helps the planet by reducing the landfill.

Can Oak Leaves Be Used In My Compost?

Yes, oak leaves are fine to use in your compost. The fresh oak leaves are very acidic, but as they decompose, they become less acidic and are a good addition to the compost pile or bin.

Make sure to mix them in with other compost ingredients, so they do not form a mat.

Can Walnut Leaves Be Composted?

Yes, walnut leaves can be composted. Walnut leaves release a product called juglone. Juglone will decompose within a matter of weeks, and the toxins will break down.

Can Hair Be Composted?

Yes, hair is compostable and is a rich source of nitrogen. My longhaired dogs produce a lot of hair from the vacuum cleaner, and when mixed in with carbon (browns), it decomposes within a few weeks.

How Long Does It Take To Make Compost?

  • Slow composting - layering large particles of browns and greens and never turning will take 1-2 years to decompose.
  • Fast composting - shredding, chopping, cutting items and turning the pile often will speed up the process from about 20 days to 3 months.

Can Coffee Grounds Be Added To The Compost?

Coffee grounds are an excellent addition to the compost. Make sure to add carbon (browns) such as the coffee filters as well.

Can I Add Wood Ash To The Compost?

Yes, wood ash from untreated wood is a good alkaline addition to compost in small amounts.

How Can Compost Be Stored?

Store in a plastic trash bin or burlap bag - add a little water every few months to keep it slightly damp and keep it from drying out.

Do You Need A Compost Activator Or Starter?

A compost starter is not essential, especially if you get the correct ratio of greens to browns. Nature will do the rest.

Do You Need More Than One Compost Bin?

It is unnecessary to have more than one bin, but you may find that you can start another when one bin is full and leave the first to decompose completely.

Can I Add Moldy Food To My Compost?

Yes, you can add food that has gone moldy to the compost. Moldy food has already started decomposing.

What Should Be Avoided In The Compost Pile?

  • Fish, meat, bones, fats, dairy, and pet feces attract rodents and decompose slowly.
  • Treated timber, poised or diseased plants, weeds that have gone to seed unless it is a very hot pile.
  • Anything inorganic.

Can Paper Kitchen Towels Be Composted?

Yes, paper towels used for mopping up spills, cleaning up dirt in the kitchen are safe to compost.

Can Citrus Go Into The Compost?

Citrus peels are a great addition to the compost bin.

Citrus will add phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium to the pile. An orange or lemon will take longer to decompose, so cut these into small pieces.

Can You Put Eggshells Into The Compost?

Yes, eggshells are a good source of calcium. However, they take forever to decompose. Grind them in your coffee grinder first.

Is It OK If Slugs And Larvae Are In Your Compost?

Maggot larvae and slugs play an important role in breaking down your compost. They will speed up the decomposition.

What Plants Do Not Benefit From Compost?

Acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, blueberries do not benefit from compost as it is slightly alkaline. These plants prefer Ericaceous compost, which is an acidic compost taken from the Ericaceous family to which they belong.

Can Weeds Be Added To The Compost Pile?

Yes, weeds can be added if it is a hot compost pile. The heat will kill any seeds.

What Is The Best Size For A Compost Pile?

  • An enclosed compost pile should be between 3ft x 3ft x 3ft or 5ft x 5ft x 5ft.
  • A smaller pile will dry out too fast, and a larger pile will be difficult to turn.

When Is Compost Ready?

Compost is ready when it is crumbly, dark, has an earthy odor, and the original organic matter added is unidentifiable.

Is Compost Also Fertilizer?

Yes, compost does have some nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in small amounts.

Compost feeds the soil, and fertilizer feeds the plants.

Can Compost Substitute Fertilizer?

There are not always enough nutrients present in compost. Some fast-growing plants will benefit from added organic water-soluble fertilizer.

Can Sawdust Be Added To Compost?

Yes, sawdust may be added in small amounts, but avoid sawdust from treated timber.

Why Is The Compost Pile Dry?

The compost pile is dry because not enough greens (nitrogen) have been added.

Add in some fresh grass clippings or kitchen scraps, and water it well.

Why Are There Undecomposed Pieces In The Compost?

Not everything decomposes at the same time. Some items take longer than others, such as eggshells, avocado pips.

Remove these items from the finished compost before using it.  Add these undecomposed bits back into the new compost pile.

Why Does The Compost Pile Smell Bad?

There is not enough air, and if the pile is too wet, add more dry ingredients such as dried leaves, shredded paper, cardboard and turn to incorporate air.

Why Is My Compost Not Heating Up?

Usually, this is because of a lack of green materials. Add fresh grass clippings or some animal manure.

The weather also plays a big part in the heat of the pile.  In winter the pile will not heat as easily as in warm weather.

How Can I Speed Up The Composting Process?

  • Shred, chop, mow before adding items to the pile.
  • Add more nitrogen (greens).
  • Turn the pile often.

Can I Compost In Winter?

Yes, if you live in an area where temperatures remain above freezing, decomposition will continue but at a slower rate

Why Is My Compost Turning To Mush?

Too much nitrogen (green materials) and not enough carbon (brown materials).

Add more browns such as dry leaves, newspaper, cardboard, egg boxes to restore the balance.

Why Is My Compost Full Of Fruit Flies?

Fruit flies are a normal occurrence in composting. They are attracted to the sugars in the fruit and vegetables.

Can Compost Be Harmful To Plants?

Mature compost is good for plants, but unfinished compost may be harmful to transplants or growing from seed.

Can Tea Bags Be Composted?

Yes, tea bags are a great addition to the compost heap. They add nitrogen and the tannin in tea is a natural fertilizer.

Do I Have To Turn The Compost Pile?

No, you do not have to turn the compost, but it will take longer to decompose.

Turning the pile will add air and speed up the decomposition.

Can I Put Compost On Top Of The Soil?

Yes, compost can be used as mulch for your garden beds. It will need to be replaced regularly.

Can The Compost Pile Be In The Sun?

Yes, it can be in the sun, and this will increase the temperature. Make sure it does not dry out too much.

Add water more often than if the pile was in the shade

Which Compost Is Best For The Vegetable Garden?

Well-aged compost is best for the vegetable garden. Never use unfinished compost in the vegetable garden.

Must I Cover The Compost Pile?

It's not necessary to cover the compost pile except if it is finished compost. Compost needs air for decomposition.

If you live in an area with high rainfall, you may need to cover it.

Is Newspaper Safe To Compost?

Yes, newspapers these days make their ink from water or soy, so they are safe to use in compost.

Never use glossy paper.

Always shred or tear up the newspaper or crunch up the paper before adding it to the compost.

What Is Aerobic Composting?

Aerobic compost is hot composting - fueled by oxygen and moisture. This method of composting introduces oxygen by turning.

It is quick to compost - about six weeks.

What Is Anaerobic Composting?

Anaerobic compost is cool composting - fueled by bacteria and moisture.

This method of composting is not turned is usually buried or in an enclosed bin and breaks down naturally.

It is a slow method - it can take 6 - 18 months.

Can I Add Manure To Compost?

Yes, chicken, rabbit or cow manure is an excellent ingredient and speeds up the decomposition.

Manure is high in nitrogen and helps break down the compost ingredients.

Use manure to speed up a slow decomposing compost pile.

Can Compost Be Used For Potting Soil?

Other ingredients need to be added, such as 1 part perlite, 1 part mature compost and 1 part topsoil.

Do I Need A Compost Bin?

A plastic or pallet compost bin is not necessary - if you have a place for an open pile in your garden, add your compost to that pile.

Why Do Leaves Take So Long To Decompose?

Dry leaves are high in carbon and require a certain amount of nitrogen to speed up the decomposition.

Mix with fresh grass clippings, and the decomposition will speed up.

How Can I Avoid Unpleasant Odors From The Compost?

Odors occur when too many greens (nitrogen) are added and too much water or not enough turning.

Add browns and turn, making sure you incorporate lots of air as well.

Can Compost Burn Plants?

If the compost is high in manure that has not sufficiently broken down, it can burn your plants.

The maximum amount of compost added to amend your garden beds should not be more than 50%. More than that may burn the plants.

Everything about compost

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