Compost

We've scoured the web, sifted through the rubbish, and hand-picked the best tips and information on how to compost we could find. Enjoy!

We continually add to this section, so please check back often.

Home Composting

Home CompostingOne of the loveliest aspects of nature is that everything in it has a use — the nasty, rotting zucchini as well as the lavender sprouting scented blossoms in the backyard. Home composting can take some of our leftovers, waste and unwanted extras and turn them into fertile soil to boost the productivity of gardens and landscapes. Here we show you how to make compost.

What is compost?

Compost is decomposed organic material that is produced when bacteria in soil break down garbage and biodegradable trash, resulting in a product rich in minerals that is an ideal garden or landscaping amendment.

Why compost?

• For one, it’s free. You get to use kitchen waste, lawn clippings, leaves and other vegetation that would otherwise get thrown away. In fact, you might even save money on landfill fees.

• Potting mixes and soils that are rich in compost produce vigorous plants regardless of whether you’re growing vegetables, growing herbs or organic rose gardening. (more…)

Worm Composting

Worm CompostingThe Dirty Truth About Vermicomposting

Composting with worms (a.k.a. vermicomposting) is the proverbial win-win situation. It gives you a convenient way to dispose of organic waste, such as vegetable peelings. It saves space in the county landfill, which is good for the environment. It gives worms a happy home and all the free “eats” that they could want. For those that have gardens or even potted plants, homegrown compost is a great way to feed and nurture plants.

Vermiculture, which some advocates have dubbed “the organic garbage disposal,” recycles food waste into rich, dark, earth-smelling soil conditioner. It’s such great stuff that Planet Natural sells a variety of organic compost that ranges in price from $5.95 to $13.95 as well as potting soil that contains compost.

And despite its reputation, worm composting doesn’t need to be a smelly endeavor. If you take care to set things up correctly, your compost bin shouldn’t be stinky. (more…)

Composting Tips

Composting BarrelWhether you’re new to home gardening or a seasoned expert, our collection of 30 composting tips should help. Enjoy!

1. Old shipping pallets make great compost bins. Begin with one flat on the ground. Drive two metal support poles into the ground on each side. Slide other pallets over each support and your bin is complete.

2. Stinky compost pile? This is probably due to an overabundance of anaerobic microbes, enthusiastically breaking down your compost, but creating quite a funk in the process. To cut down on the smell, fluff the pile regularly, creating air spaces and limiting the anaerobic microbes while stimulating the less smelly aerobic microbes. (more…)

What’s In Commercial Compost?

Commercial Compost… and why you should make your own.

When the State of California required Los Angeles to reduce its landfill waste, the city had the perfect solution. Compost! A large percentage of what went into the dumps came from lawns, gardens and parks. By collecting green waste, composting it and marketing it back to the public, the City not only reduced its waste by half, it made money to boot. The commercial compost was sold by the yard to large growers and landscape services as well as in attractive bags at select home, garden and grocery stores. The program more than paid for itself. Win-win!

Then the reports started coming in. Growers of tomatoes, peas and other vegetables noticed they were losing crops. Sunflowers and daisies died. The culprit was found to be Clopyralid, a widely-used dandelion herbicide, found to be present in the City-manufactured compost. Suddenly compost programs in Los Angeles, Spokane and other parts of the country came to a halt as the “contaminated compost” scandal spread. (more…)

Compost Bin Buyer’s Guide

Compost TumblerThere’s something deeply satisfying about turning garbage into vegetables — or at least into compost, vegetables’ best friend. To get started all you need to do is collect a bunch of brown materials (leaves, sawdust, vegetable stalks), mix them together in a pile with plenty of green materials (grass clippings, vegetable scraps, garden waste), keep everything nice and moist (not wet), and voila! Compost.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is. It just doesn’t happen very quickly. Fortunately, compost bins can help, reducing decomposition time from several years to a single season or less.

Available in a large variety of shapes and sizes, composters are designed to help you produce compost more efficiently. They look great (okay, maybe not great, but a whole lot better than a heap of garbage in your back yard) and they speed up the decomposition process. Faster decomposition means more compost for your garden, which is good not only for your plants but also for the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that composting can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by as much as 24%. (more…)

Using Autumn’s Bounty

Autumn LeavesBy Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural

Leaves, easily turned into protective mulch, soil-enhancing leaf mold or rich compost, are the fall season’s gift to the composter. After the last tomatoes are picked, the standing greens harvested, the squash brought in and the carrots pulled, nature provides a bounty that assures the next year’s crops will have the best soil possible. Let your non-gardening neighbors curse autumn’s raking tasks. Composters rejoice in the piles of mineral-rich organic material that trees graciously shed just for them.

Okay, okay, maybe that’s a little too much hyperbole. Still, it’s hard not to get poetic about leaves. Sure, raking can be hard work even for composters who know the value in each and every leaf. But leaves have long been a treasure for the gardeners: easily available, rich in nutrients, an effective mulch in winter and summer and, once decomposed, extremely beneficial to the soil. (more…)

Bokashi for Christmas

Bokashi CompostingYesterday after the big feast, your friendly and conservation-minded Planet Natural Blogger noticed something he notices every year at Thanksgiving: how much food is being discarded. The abundance made me think of all the foodstuff that becomes waste and how much methane it generates once in the landfill. And just like that, I had something to put at the top of my Christmas list: a Bokashi bucket!

Bokashi is a self-contained, anaerobic method of composting that accepts things that, for reasons of pests, varmints and sanitation, shouldn’t go into your regular compost heap. Bokashi is actually the bran or other grain meal that is innoculated with beneficial, highly active microbes that will turn food scraps into a useable compost tea. This tea is so potent you wouldn’t want to use it directly on plants right away. Instead it’s allowed to mellow over a period of a couple weeks, then diluted; or buried in your garden soil in increments that temper its life-boosting power. (more…)

Things We’ve Learned: Leaves

Autumn LeavesWe think of gardening as a never-ending learning process. Just when something makes sense, we learn something new — or remember some detail we’d forgotten — and suddenly, Doh!… we feel like Homer Simpson. Such is the case with using leaves in the garden. We used to have so many. We’d heap up our compost piles and spread them over our garden. One not-so-bright day in November we decided that if we turned them into the soil they wouldn’t blow around as much. And, come spring, they’d decompose faster into the soil, enriching it with mineral-rich humus. Win-win!

No, lose. Even though we knew that carbon-rich materials use up nitrogen as they break down, we didn’t put it together with our garden soil, which of course we wanted to be nitrogen-rich. By turning those leaves into the soil, we were guaranteeing that we’d be losing some nitrogen for next growing season. Same thing happens with other carbon-rich materials: wood chips, sawdust, pine needles; even shredded paper and cardboard if you’re using it. Turning them directly into the soil will deplete nitrogen.

Of course, there’s a simple solution. Put those leaves into your compost heap with enough “green” (nitrogen-rich) materials to finish the resulting product. You don’t need much. Experts tell us that 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen will do the trick If you don’t have enough nitrogen, the composting process comes to a halt. (more…)

Composting Big

Turning Compost PileLike it or not, here comes autumn and its bounty of leaves, garden refuse, and other compostable materials. If you’re just getting into composting — or your bin or tumbler won’t hold all of fall’s organic bounty — it’s time to think big. A large compost pile or bin — and a little patience — will reward you down the road with more compost. And that means more benefits for your lawn and garden.

Large compost bins need to do more than just hold vast quantities of compostable materials. They need to breathe, provide easy access for turning, and be located close to where you’ll be using your compost. And it must be remembered that large amounts of materials will take a longer period of time. We like to think in terms of threes, since, in our experience, these really large heaps take three years, more or less, to turn to rich soil amendment. The three-bin compost bin, often left open in the front seems perfect. Fresh materials are put in the first bin and are turned into the second after several months. The half-way materials in the second bin are then turned into the third bin where they can be harvested as needed. (more…)

Compost In the Xeriscape

Steaming Compost PilesIt seems that no matter the problem we face in our gardens, the answer — or at least a part of the answer — frequently includes compost. This is certainly true in xeriscape gardening, the process of using minimal moisture effectively. Soil conditioning is one of the seven principles of xeriscaping. Soil that retains moisture while still allowing moisture to move through it is the goal. While there are many amendments that can be added to particular kinds of soil — clay or coarse — to help them conduct and retain moisture properly, the first and best step (because it also adds valuable microorganisms to the soil) is composting.

Gayle Weinstein’s excellent text Xericscape Handbook: A How-To Guide to Natural, Resource-Wise Gardening does a good job of explaining how water moves (and stays) in soil. Water, filtering from top to bottom, fills the spaces around each soil particle. Gravity pulls the water through the soil, but capillary action holds some of the water near the surface. When gravity draws some of the water away from plant roots through the soil and the capillary water is lost, either through evaporation or plant uptake, what’s left is called hygroscopic water, the water absorbed by the soil particles and slowly given up as capillary water between the soil particle spaces vanishes. (more…)

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