Get down and dirty in the garden
What if you could green up your lawn, create gorgeous healthy plants and never have to buy commercial fertilizers again? Composting provides all of these with the added benefit of helping the earth by cutting down the amount you contribute to landfills.
How to Start a Compost Bin
1. To begin you will need some sort of bin to house your composting materials in. This can be any type of container that will provide proper drainage at the bottom. Make sure to choose a container that is at least 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Most home improvement and hardware stores offer bins specifically for home composting. An alternative is to build your own compost bin out of wood and a few sheets of chicken wire. You can also create a lid made out of the same materials, which would allow rainwater to get in while also keeping any animals from getting into the bin.
For a simple garden project, make your own compost bin at home with wood and chicken wire.
Photo courtesy AllAboutYou
2. Next, you will need to fill the bin halfway with a mixture of dirt and leaves. This is preferably done in the fall or early spring when there is a lot of yard debris to work with. Add water to give the compost moisture and to start the composting process.
3. Now comes the more interesting part. Think of your compost bin as a pot and the inside as a sort of stew. You can add just about any type of organic material to it: fruits, vegetables, plant waste, etc. Once you start noticing the things you can compost from your meals rather than throw away they will begin to add up quick. The egg shells from breakfast, banana peel from lunch, etc.
4. Water your compost bin and turn the soil regularly. Before long you will notice your compost heap start to dwindle in size and provide nutrients to any plants nearby. Be sure not to include anything that may have harmful ingredients, as those will be passed on to the plants as well
Mini Compost Bins
Several retailers offer mini composting bins that are great for your kitchen. They allow you to fill them with the scraps you have throughout the week rather than running them out to the larger compost bin outside constantly. These are nice as some of them have a carbon filter inside to keep them from having an odor while in your kitchen. I find it works well to have three bins under my kitchen sink: one for trash, one for recycling and one for composting. If you haven't composted before you will immediately be surprised at how little goes into the trash when so many things can either be composted or recycled.
Use a mini compost bin such as this brushed stainless-steel pail in your kitchen for easy compost access.
Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma
Using Compost at Home
For the rest of your lawn and garden there are a few different methods that I've found work well in using the compost as a natural organic fertilizer. The first method is to simply spread the compost over your flower beds and lawn. Gently rake it in and follow up with a thorough watering to allow the nutrients to seep in. To reduce the need for watering, try to do this before an expected rainfall and then you won’t need to water—nature will take care of it all on its own. You can also add the compost to the root bulb when planting new plants, shrubs or trees. This provides the plant with extra nourishment as it settles and lays down roots.
The second method is to make a compost tea. For this you will need an old T-shirt or cut-up sheet, some twine or a thick rubber band, and a large bucket. Fill the cloth with compost, close up the ends and secure with the twine or rubber band. You’ll notice your creation sort of resembles a tea bag.
Next, place your “tea bag” in the bucket and fill with water. The water will begin to turn brown as it draws out the ingredients from the tea bag. Allow the mixture to sit for the next 2 to 3 days to ensure it has drawn out all of the necessary nutrients and is nice and thick. Once it is ready you can pour it straight from the bucket or use a watering can to sprinkle it over your flower beds. If you’d like to use it over your entire lawn or large flower beds I recommend using a spray nozzle that you can fill with the tea mixture and attach to your garden hose. These can also be found at most hardware or home improvement stores in the gardening or fertilizer sections.
Lastly, sit back and enjoy your beautiful organic garden. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well composting can enrich your garden. And as an added bonus, take a look at your curbside trash and see how much it has decreased. Our family went from using two garbage cans a week to only half of one can a week. Helping Mother Earth makes composting even more rewarding.
Freelance writer, sales assistant and mother of two, Christy Kenyon hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Christy is an avid gardener and nutrition enthusiast who loves learning about how to improve the health of people, animals and the planet.