Sunday, May 8, 2011

Growing Your Own Food: Part 2

If you want to get caught up on Growing Your Own Food, see this post. Today, I will talk about Composting for better and cheaper success with your planting.

Compost. Such a mystery to me a couple years ago! I mean what exactly is in there- garbage... dirt... or something grosser (yes I made up a word:)?

This post is to clear some things up about composting. Wherever you live, it's possible to compost.

First, composting is EASY!

Here is all you really need:
  1. A big container (with holes). We used 1/2 of an old dumpster (top part with lid) and drilled holes in it so that the compost can aerate. You can also use old tires, Tupperware containers, get creative! It doesn't have to have a bottom to it, just needs to be protected from critters like raccoons.
  2. Dead leaves and sticks or wood (free! most people have these all over the place)
  3. Unadulterated Food trash- it should be uncooked (or cooked, but no oils were used) and preferably organic or free of pesticides. Fruit peels, pits, and seeds, any vegetable parts, washed out egg shells, etc. Meats and fat are not good for composting. What we do is whenever we cut fruit and vegetables for meals we put the peels, seeds, or whatever is left behind in a big container in the freezer. When that container gets full, we then bring it out to mix it in with the compost we have going.
There are many ways/ methods of composting. Some people use worms, others manure. But we have found a more simple method that works for us. And if you are just starting out, this would be a good beginner method. Here is what you do:
  • Mix equal parts brown waste (dead leaves, dried out sticks, dead wood, even unbleached paper towel type products, etc.) with green waste (clean egg shells, fruit and vegetable waste).
  • Then turn it around, or as I say, "stir it up" every couple days or so.
  • This is a very basic method, but it has worked for us the past year. Other things help move it along faster so feel free comment if you have any other tips!

Why compost? Good question! Here is why I think it's better and cheaper:
  1. You should compost if you are planting any kind of garden- planters, beds, or straight into the ground. When you transplant a plant into the garden or planter, the plant goes through a bit of shock- especially here in Georgia where we have red clay in our soil that is mean to those sweet plants! If you mix one part compost with one part straight from the ground dirt, it helps the plants have a better chance for survival because they are eased into wherever you put them.
  2. And even better- you don't have to buy any mulch or manure, which makes gardening (flowers, plants, or food) much, much cheaper! Composting is cheap because you already have all you need at home- just raw food, and dead leaves or sticks. All you really need after the initial planting of 1/2 compost, 1/2 dirt is possibly some kind of fertilizer (although this is optional, but usually yields better fruiting in your garden), and possibly some kind of organic pesticide (if you notice your plants getting eaten)- usually comprised mostly of fish oil which you can buy at Lowe's or Home Depot.
So I hope this post has cleared up quite a bit about how easy it is to compost in your home. It does take a good couple of months to get nice, rich, black compost. Maybe if you started right now, you could make it in time for Fall planting :)

Happy Composting!

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