You can turn your food scraps and yard waste into "black gold" that will feed your plants and improve your soil.You can then improve your flower garden with compost, top dress your lawn, feed your growing veggies, and more.Once you get your compost pile started, you'll find that it's an easy way to repurpose kitchen scraps and other organic materials into something that can help your plants thrive.Cold composting is as simple as collecting yard waste or taking out the organic materials in your trash (such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells) and then corralling them in a pile or bin.In spring or fall when garden waste is plentiful, you can mix one big batch of compost and then start a second one while the first "cooks.".Composting is a great way to use the things in your refrigerator that are a little past their prime, which helps reduce food waste.For kitchen scraps that could start spoiling quickly, another option is to store them in the freezer until you are ready to add them to your larger outdoor pile."Green" materials include kitchen scraps and coffee grounds, animal manures (not from dogs or cats), and fresh plant and grass trimmings, which add nitrogen.If you see it looks extremely brown and dry, add green items and water to make it slightly moist.At this point, the layers have served their purpose of creating equal amounts of green and brown materials throughout the pile, so stir thoroughly.Test Garden Tip: In addition to aerating regularly, chop and shred raw ingredients into smaller sizes to speed up the composting process.This involves allowing fully formed compost to "steep" in water for several days, then straining it to use as a homemade liquid fertilizer. .

Compost 101

Compost is created through the process of thermal decay and then added as humus to the garden.Compost is home to millions of active microorganisms which help to continue breaking down organic matter into bio-available nutrients - food for plants!Essentially, this 'ties up' nitrogen as it's being used by microorganisms to digest high carbon material, as opposed to being readily available for plants.Either way, it's good to note that, once applied, all compost will continue the natural process of breaking down and decaying into rich, nutrient-dense soil.And remember, as microorganisms break down compost, nutrients are released and made into fertilizer available for plants.Dig in lightly with a bow rake, and leave the compost to rest a week or two before you plant seeds or starts.With crops that have over-wintered, or when applying compost well into the garden season, practice a technique called "side dressing".In this way, the compost is applied as a mulch and so it reaps multiple rewards; It offers nutrients to plants mid-cycle, will discourage weed growth, and it will retain water - a benefit of side dressing in summer. .

Composting: How to Make Compost using Tumblers & Bins

To store kitchen waste until you’re ready to transfer it to your composter, keep a container with a lid and a handle under the sink.A stainless steel compost pail with an carbon filter or a ceramic model will cut down on odors.Leaves and grass clippings are also excellent for compost but should be sprinkled into the bin with other materials, or dug in to the center of the pile and mixed.Avoid putting them on in thick layers – they will mat together and reduce aeration, which slows the composting process.Simply wrap a small pile of leaves in burlap and immerse in a garbage can or large bucket of water. .

Composting At Home

Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow.Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.Greens - This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.- Might contain substances harmful to plants Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs*.- Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies Diseased or insect-ridden plants.- Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants Fats, grease, lard, or oils*.- Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies Meat or fish bones and scraps*.- Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides.Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.Helpful tools include pitchforks, square-point shovels or machetes, and water hoses with a spray head.Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.Add brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded.A properly managed compost bin will not attract pests or rodents and will not smell bad. .

What Is the Best Manure Compost for Gardens?

Animal manure has long been used as a fertilizer in gardens and on farm fields, creating nutrient-rich, moisture-retaining soil for your plants.Fresh cow manure , sometimes called moo doo, is about 17% organic matter, offers .3% nitrogen, .2% phosphorus, .4% potassium, and is 83% moisture.Dried cow manure has much higher nutrient levels - 2% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 2.4% potassium—so you could use much less, roughly 10 pounds per 100 square feet.Dried cow manure has much higher nutrient levels - 2% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 2.4% potassium—so you could use much less, roughly 10 pounds per 100 square feet.Fresh chicken manure, sometimes called hen dressing, is 25-45% organic matter, has 1.1% nitrogen, .8% phosphorus, and .5% potassium, and is 55-75% moisture.Because of its tendency towards alkalinity, poultry manure is unsuitable for lime-hating (ericaceous) plants, such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, blueberries and heathers.Fresh horse manure , sometimes called road apples, is 24% organic matter, has .7% nitrogen, .3% phosphorus, and .6% potassium, and is about 75% moisture.Fresh rabbit droppings , AKA bunny honey, are 33% organic matter, offer 2.4% nitrogen, 1.4%phosphorus, .6% potassium, and only 43% moisture.Raw manure must be applied no less than 120 days prior to harvesting leafy crops or those that come in contact with the soil such as lettuce, beets, carrots, and potatoes.Fresh manure also can contain harmful pathogens including E. coli, salmonella, and listeria, along with lots of undigested weed seeds.Composting manure will greatly reduce the risk of illness and can render the weed seeds incapable of germinating.If it doesn’t have a lot of bedding such as straw, wood shavings, or sawdust mixed with it, add leaves, grass clippings, food waste, or newsprint to increase the ratio of carbon to nitrogen to between 25:1 and 40:1 for the best results. .

The Best Soil for a Raised Garden Bed: Healthy Soil Equals Healthy

This is especially advantageous for those whose property has hard-packed or clay soil, issues with tree roots, or concerns about pollutants.And since good soil is the foundation of a healthy garden, you want to make sure you’re setting your veggies up for success.The soil in a raised bed will remain loose and friable, rather than being hard-packed over time by footsteps.When I built my raised beds, I called around and ordered what I thought would be a good-quality triple mix.In Ontario where I live, triple mix is generally top soil, compost, and peat moss or black loam.All that rich organic matter is an important component that will hold moisture and provide nutrients to your plants.Topping up your beds with compost will add nutrients back into the soil to prepare it for whatever you plant next.To maintain the health of even the best soil for a raised garden bed, adding organic matter every year is essential.I find the soil levels in my raised beds are usually lower from the weight of the snow.If you have smaller containers to fill, check out Jessica’s recipes in her DIY potting soil article. .

How to Improve Your Soil

In the perfect world, it has roughly equal parts of sand, silt and clay, plus air, water, and a small amount of organic matter (usually less than five-percent, often much less).The good news is that either condition can be improved to make your soil more hospitable to the plants you want to grow there.It can make heavy clay soil drain better, easier to dig and not so hard or sticky.Items from outside — shredded leaves, rotted manure, worm castings, grass clippings, plant debris, ground up bark, trees, and limbs — are all examples of organic matter.While you could add these items directly to your soil, it’s best to store these ingredients somewhere on your property in a pile or bin and allow them to decompose first.Then, once all that goodness has broken down to an unrecognizable state, it’s ready to go into your garden soil and immediately go to work.The process just described is the essence of making compost—the collective product of all this combined organic matter breaking down en masse, and the single best ingredient for improving any soil.Although it’s quite a simple process to make it from all the items you already have from inside and outside the house, The Complete Guide to Home Composting is a comprehensive resource to take you much farther.The answer lies in the living network of soil organisms that develop in this mass of biodegradable goodness.The very organisms that break down the raw material into soil particles are the ones creating the ingredients that allow these particulates to bind together in various sizes.In turn, they create pockets of space for air and water to collect and move, and for roots to more easily expand.In turn, these billions of microscopic living organisms are producing nutrients in a soluble form that is stored on soil particles that plant roots can take up as needed.The simple act of adding organic matter back into the soil will increase the nutrients as a part of that.It’s important to keep in mind that while the addition of organic matter is critical to the health of any soil, it’s not something you just apply or mix in one time and forget about it.Mother Nature’s army of microscopic organisms, arthropods and earthworms will do the work of breaking it down, and take it deeper into the soil right where it’s needed.Shredding fall leaves with that same mower and spreading them onto my lawn, or storing them in a compost heap to break down for later use. .

Soil and Compost

You are in the market for some soil or compost and you visit the local nursery or big box store.In this post I will try to sort out this confusion and show you which product to use for different types of jobs.In my last post, Topsoil, Compost, Triple Mix – What’s the Difference?To simplify things, you never need to buy peat moss, unless you are making your own potting or seedling mix.To reduce watering I like to add some garden soil or some topsoil to the potting mix so that it hold moisture longer.Even for the vegetable bed it is best to add the organic matter as a mulch and leave it on top of the soil.You will have fewer weeds and the moisture will be retained in the soil longer.Straw slowly decomposes adding organic matter to soil.If you are building a new vegetable bed that is not raised you still do not need to buy soil.When making the bed for the first time it is OK to dig in the organic matter as part of your preparation process.Triple mix is a combination of soil, peat moss, and compost.Since 2/3 of the mix is organic matter, which decomposes over time, the level of the soil will go down each year.This is not a big problem in a vegetable bed or one that is used for growing just annuals, but it is not good for perennials and shrubs.In no time at all perennials and shrubs will be planted too high as the soil around them shrinks.Triple mix is the common product that is used to lay a new lawn.This is caused by too much organic matter in the soil laid down before adding grass.Do you need to raise the level of the existing soil to make it higher?It is the one product that will maintain the desired level, but even it settles a bit. .


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