Plants are inseparable from compost. After all, it is the nutrient-rich, soil-like mixture that is essential for gardening and yielding healthy plants in your backyard garden. In short, compost is the main product of composting. But what is composting? It is a process of naturally decomposing or biodegrading organic matter that includes garden waste, kitchen scraps, manure, leaves, grass clippings, straw, egg shells, and coffee grounds. This gradual process called composting is considered to be “black gold” by most gardeners, due to the numerous benefits it provides to the garden. While adding compost to clay soil makes it easier to work, adding it to sandy soils can improve the water holding capacity of the same. As such, treating your garden soil with compost can enhance plant growth and healthy being of your garden. But do you know how the wastes and scrap convert into compost? To find out, navigate through the next section for the composting process.
Process Of Composting
The entire process of composting constitutes of four major components: organic matter, moisture, oxygen, and bacteria.
Talking about organic matter, it is made up of plant materials and some animal manure. To get the best quality compost, the organic materials should consist of a mixture of brown organic material, such as dead leaves, twigs, and manure, and green organic material, like lawn clippings, fruit rinds, and so on. While brown materials supply carbon, green materials provide nitrogen. The ideal ratio of both the materials is 1:1. To speed up the process of composting, shred, chop, or mow the materials into small pieces.
Providing the organic material with the right kind of moisture is highly essential to achieve the best compost. The perfect compost can be compared to the wetness of a wrung-out sponge. In case the pile is too dry, the materials will take considerably longer time to decompose. To prevent this, supply the material with enough water in drier seasons. Similarly, if the pile is too wet, turn the pile and mix evenly. You can also add sufficient amount of dry brown organic materials.
While the materials are broken down by bacteria, providing them with enough oxygen will support the entire composting process. Turn the composting pile bringing the materials at the edges towards the center. This not only helps in even composting, but also prevents odor. Allow the materials to decompose for at least weeks before turning the pile. Henceforth, turn the pile frequently to speed up the process.
Bacteria and other microorganisms form the major components in the composting process. Since bacteria is already present in the materials, supplying them with organic materials, water, and oxygen helps the bacteria to perform their part of the job. Bacteria helps in breaking down the materials into useful compost.
Depending upon certain factors, the process of composting can take about 3 months. The factors to be considered include the size of the compost pile, the types of materials, the surface area of the materials, and the number of times the pile is turned. Smaller piles take longer durations to produce finished compost. For larger piles, the length should be increased limiting the height and depth to 5 feet tall by 5 feet deep. Including more brown organic materials increase the duration of composting, while green materials and fertilizers with nitrogen speed up the process. Turning the pile more frequently will yield you compost more quickly, after about every 2-4 weeks. Further, make sure that you stop turning the pile after November. This will prevent the heat from escaping. The process is slow during this period, but speeds up in summers.
With the entire process of composting being discussed above, hope you must have got an idea of what composting is and how useful it is for your garden.