Updated: Nov 10, 2021
This is it. This is that "black gold" of overheard whispers in the back corner of your favorite garden nursery. Like Grandma’s Pie, every recipe is different, and some are secret.
Compost is a reason for a lot of the success for organic gardeners. In a no-till garden, it can be used seasonally for aiding in the support of your microbial life.
Over time, regular use of compost in even the most barren dirt will result in extremely dark and rich soil. Real live soil! Full of all the phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium that your plants need to thrive.
I grow my soil, my soil grows my garden.
As opposed to commercial fertilizers which are only temporary boost of nutrients, compost is a soil amendment that adds essential trace minerals needed for robust vegetation and healthy microscopic life in your soil. Things like sulfur, calcium, copper, boron etc., along with companion planting and overall biodiversity will help cultivate a deep, balanced, and symbiotic soil that will last for years in a well-funtioning ecosystem.
Commercial fertilizers are just in reality topical treatments, questionably made, and often toxic. I will not go into detail of why synthetic products actually prohibit sustained farming, but recent class-action lawsuits should be a telltale sign.
Countless methods for creating the perfect compost exist, so I will instead give you the basic understanding of how to begin growing your own soil at home! Never have to buy dirt or fertilizers again. It's really not as complicated as it may seem!
Composting can be accomplished in many different ways. The very best way is by feeding your leftover organic material to animals like chickens, pigs, and goats. They are by far the quickest composters around.
However if you do not have animals, you can still create your very own compost by feeding your organic matter to bacteria and insects instead. Your composter can be something as simple as a refuse pile, or it can be something made just for creating compost, like a tumbler. Hugulkultur beds could even be created in a particular shape to act as a composting pocket. For myself, I’m often of the mindset that simplest is best, and I find things do well just left to rot.
My first compost box worked extremely well, even though it took at least a year or more to create any useable compost. It inspired by the "Two-Bin Composter" in "The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It". It was a two chambered, open top box in which you just pile your organic matter in one side for a year and then switch to the other side the following year. The only modifications I made were a screen top on hinges to keep out squirrels, and a more substantial foundation to keep out rats. I added a base by laying out cement pavers underneath with one missing in the middle for the creepy crawlers to get in and out.
Creating Your Compost
Basically, when you compost in any manner that you choose, the goal is to make a balanced mix of all components added. It is not absolutely necessary to be exact, but at the bare minimum you want to combine a wide assortment of organic materials to your compost in order to create a full spectrum of nutrients in the end product. You may be surprised to know that composting the very “weeds” grown in an area often make the best compost for that same soil!
An example of layers you may use include (but are not limited to;)
-kitchen food scraps
-plant matter “even weeds and seeds”
Note: cardboard should not be composted due to its unknown ingredients and glues.
Basically, if it's natural, it can be composted! Some people choose to add other soil amendments to their compost like lime or animal manure. I say, start with your scraps, and figure out what works for you. Once you become indoctrinated into composting, you will be amazed how much you were just throwing out!
It's not a bad idea to spritz your compost with water periodically to ensure that it stays moist. In the winter you may be surprised to feel warmth coming from your compost bin, that’s a sign that your microbial life is thriving!
You will know your compost is ready for use when you can no longer distinguish specific food scraps, and when it all just crumbles so nice and smells, so good!
Now you are on your way to making your own black gold. Help your soil, it’s a sure fire way to get richer.
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