preparing the garden plans

The Spring Garden season will be here before you know it. It’s time to start planning what to plant in your Spring Gardens and how to jump-start the flowers and vegetables you hope to enjoy. But right now, even in the dead of winter, you can start composting to fortify your garden soil.

A healthy garden depends on good soil. Perfect planting soil doesn’t exist in any region of the United States. Every geographic area has its challenges, whether it is too much clay, lime, acidity, or sand. You can fix your soil with the correct compost blend.

Download my guide on what to compost.

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Composting for Beginners

Rich compost is the cheapest and easiest way to build nutrients in soil.

I wish I could say my “earth-friendly conscience” encouraged me to start composting. To be honest, saving money on fertilizer motivated me to start composting. The more I spent on fertilizer and compost, the less I had for plants and trees.

Adding compost to the soil is the easiest way to quickly build up nutrients and organic matter in the garden.

Flowers and vegetables won’t thrive without healthy soil. You should aim to add one to two inches of compost in the garden every year. You probably recognize the brand names Black Kow, Black Velvet, Timberline, or the organic Wakefield Biochar. These compost brands are sold by the 1-cubic foot per bag, and to cover my backyard would cost me $1,000 each season. I learned that I could start composting for a fraction of that cost.

Pail or Pile

Any container that allows you to accumulate food scraps and yard waste can be a composter. An open pile is definitely cost-effective, but you may prefer a covered vessel that will contain the smell of compost and keep stray animals out. But a compost pile or pen is definitely less expensive if you have a really big yard.

My composter is on loan from the City. You can contact your town’s waste management to see if they run a compost project. My local county dump used to offer free compost if you shoveled and hauled it away. Unfortunately, the pandemic stopped that process, but check your area for those resources.

In lieu of a free composter, all the big garden centers sell compost bins of varying sizes. I prefer the covered bins. In my experience, they retain more heat, and the leaves, paper, food scraps break down quicker.

Budget is not a problem when you start composting. If money is tight, the internet is a great resource for ways to build a composter. And of course, if you have enough land around your home just designate the area to build a pile.

The Composting Recipe

basic recipe to start composting

There is a formula to start composting; mix 3 parts brown with 1 part green. The “browns” are non-living elements like dry leaves, paper, cardboard, and newspaper. The “green” elements include grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells. Mix these elements with water and churn regularly until they break down.

You should never compost meat, fish, oil, diseased plants, or pet waste. If you churn the compost frequently, the faster it breaks down. If you’ve heard of “fish fertilizer”, you may be wondering why fish can’t be composted. Fish scraps add nitrogen and trace elements to soil and horticulturists and farmers sometimes plant them right into the soil. But fish go rancid when they decompose and in compost piles, they will attract rats, raccoons, and other animals.

Controlling Decomposition

How quickly you create your first batch of usable compost also depends on the temperature. Decomposition requires heat and more specifically a constant temperature between 135℉ and 160℉.

I don’t have any trouble keeping the temperature up in my composter in Florida. However, it is something to consider when you purchase your composter. Look for a dual-chamber, well-insulated model designed to absorb and retain heat. Be sure to check on my Best Composters of 2022 and why the dual chamber is the best way to go.

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