Compost is sometimes referred to as “black gold”. It is true that compost has only qualities. For one thing, it is a sure-fire way to bring health to your lawn and plants. It is completely natural and will neither cause damage to your plants nor hurt any of the organisms that live in the soil. On the contrary. It is natural food to all of them. Note that compost is a soil amendment that is not considered to be a fertilizer as such (see our page on green fertilizers).
Composting turns worthless litter into valuable soil amendment. More and more cities are transforming dead leaves, grass clippings and household litter into compost. This helps them, among other things, bring down their greenhouse gas emissions.
Various kinds of compost
Compost can be made from various types of litter, and various types of compost can have different uses. Garden litter and domestic litter compost are both “general use” composts. Others are especially good for specific purposes.
- Shrimp compost, for instance, is rich in calcium and promotes root growth. It is often mixed with peat moss and can be added to the soil when putting plants into the ground. This way, it can feed the roots as well as keep the soil moist, which can give your new trees and bushes a head start. This combination can also help lawn sods remain moist and shoot new roots faster.
- Forest litter compost is not very rich in nitrogen, phosphate or potassium, but it is good at lightening clay soils, especially if it include a lot of tree bark (see our page on clay soil plants). Note this type of compost may make your soil more acidic. When used as mulch, forest litter compost can reduce weed growth.
Making it at home
A good compost is a well composted one. Kitchen litter is especially hard to process. Bones and egg shells, for instance, can take a lot of time to be turned into compost. So if you want to make the process faster, you may consider using only garden litter.
Here are a few pointers that will help the organic matter you use turn into black gold:
- Mixing together dried and fresh, nitrogen rich litter fuels the process. Bring together the same amount by weight of dried, brown garden litter and fresh, green grass clippings and you will have the perfect mix. The green will help decay the brown, and the brown will ensure the green doesn’t turn into slime.
- Big chunks take longer to decay than small chunks, so mulched leaves and chipped twigs will turn into compost faster. See our page on mulching machines.
- Air and water are a must, not just on top and on the sides, but throughout. So turning your compost and adding water every so often will boost the process.
If you have the space, you can simply pile up your organic matter in a corner of your yard. The rain and wind will help fuel the process. You may also choose to bury your organic matter under a few inches of soil. In both cases, be sure to keep things moist.
In most cases, though, it is more practical to use a bin. If this is your case, consider the following:
- If you buy a composting bin made of wood or plastic, or if you make one yourself, make sure it lets air and water flow through. The micro organisms that transform the organic matter not only need to survive, they need to thrive and eat as much as possible.
- If you use your compost in your vegetable garden, and are using a wooden bin, make sure the wood is not treated agains rot.