As a responsible farmer or gardener, it is in your best interest to adopt the right methods that can improve your plant growth and yield. One of such methods you need to adopt is composting. There are a lot of ways composting can be of benefit to your plant soil and roots. Some gardeners believe that the best thing you can ever do for your plant is to add compost every now and then. But one major problem farmers face when it comes to composting is choosing the right compost for their plants.
In this article, we will be discussing about some of the best ways to add compost to your soil and the benefits of composting to plant growth and development. Before we get into the details of this composting guide and let you in on all the secrets on how best to compost, let talk a little about composting and how it became a popular agricultural practice.
What is Composting?
Composting is an agricultural practice that involves the addition of compost which is decomposed organic matter to the soil to improve the nutrient content and to support healthy plant growth. Compost is highly rich in organic matter and nutrients that can easily be added to soil for use in organic farming, gardens, horticulture, urban agriculture, and landscaping. When added to the soil, compost goes a long way to act as a conditioner and also helps to reduce the outbreak of pests on the farm or garden.
Compost, in most cases, is composed of green waste which could be food scraps, grass, and leaves that are not beneficially for use as food for human consumption but fit to be used as food source for plants once it has been broken down. Before composting can take place, these green wastes have to be left in a heap for months so as to allow the organic materials to decompose to form humus.
The whole decomposition process can be hastened by the cutting of the plant matter into smaller pieces and adding water to speed up the oxidation process. After this, the next step will be to place the mixture in a place where it can get direct access to air. This can be achieved by regularly turning the pile to ensure that each part gets enough air.
How to Compost
There is a right way to compost and a wrong way to do it. If you want your compost to be of the highest possible quality, you will need to follow the right procedure when preparing compost for your garden. Here is a better way to compost.
Begin Building Your Pile from the Bare Floor
If you want to get the highest quality compost, then you will need to start building your compost pile from the bare earth. By so doing, you make it easier for earthworms and other important microorganisms to breakdown the compost.
Pile Up the Straws and Twigs First
Since you already know that you need to build a pile from the bare ground up, you also need to make sure that you pile up the straws and twigs first. Ensure that they reach up to a depth of a few inches as this helps to improve drainage and makes it easier for air to circulate around the pile.
Build Your Compost Materials in Layers
After placing the straws and twigs at the bottom, you can now start adding the wet ingredients which could be the tea bags, moist food scraps, and seaweed. The dry materials will be the next to follow and they can be wood ashes, leaves, sawdust pellets, and straws. When adding wood ashes, it is best you do so in layers so as they don’t clump up and slow the entire decomposition process. The best way to speed up the decomposition process is to interchange between moist and dry ingredients so the breakdown can take place faster.
Include Manure in the Mix
You should endeavor to include green manure in your compost. This helps to speed up the process by activating the breakdown of the ingredients. The best options of green manure you can add to your compost include grass clippings, clover, buckwheat, and wheatgrass or any other potential source of organic nitrogen.
Ensure that the Pile is Always Moist
To be able to get the best quality result in the shortest possible time, you need to ensure that the compost pile is kept moist always. You can easily do this by sprinkling water on the pile occasionally or allowing rain to drop on it.
Cover the Pile
You will need to place a lid on the compost pile, this helps to keep the moisture content and heat intact. These are two things that compost need to speed up the activation process. By using a lid on the compost, you also help to protect the pile from been damaged by the rain. You can use materials such as wood, carpet pieces, plastic materials, or aluminum to cover the compost. You can use anything provided you ensure to water the pile regularly to ensure that it remains moist.
Turn the Pile Occasionally
You will need to turn the pile once a week or biweekly to promote the supply of oxygen throughout the compost. This can be done easily with the help of a shovel or pitchfork. If you also want to include new materials to the mix, you can do so but you should ensure that you mix them in properly since you want them to breakdown quickly.
How Does Composting Work?
Composting works by the complete decomposition of solid organic waste which is turned into humus that helps to improve healthy plant growth and development. Composting is an aerobic process which means that for the process to take place, there has to be a constant supply of air. But oxygen isn’t the only ingredient needed for composting to work.
Simply put, you can say that for composting to fully occur, there needs to be adequate provision of heat, oxygen and timely human management to ensure that everything works accordingly. Just so we are clear, here are the ingredients you need to be particular about.
Plants need nitrogen to be able to grow healthy green leaves and strong roots and stem. The plant root absorbs the nitrogen from the soil which is then transported to the stem, branches, and leaves which helps is producing flowers and fruits. To add a decent amount of nitrogen in your compost, you will need to add green leaves and also include vegetables and fruits and ensure that they are kept moist always.
Carbon is the energy source that speeds up composting. The oxidation of carbon by the microorganism in the compost helps to produce heat in the mix which quickens the time it takes for the entire waste to be broken down. The dry ingredients such as the wood ash, straws, and twigs are high in carbon and also act as a heat source to the entire compost.
This is also a key ingredient that helps to turn compost to humus. The presence of air helps in the oxidation of the carbon which hastens the process of decomposition. You will need to ensure that compost is kept outside where it can get direct access to oxygen.
You will need to add water to the compost pile regularly to ensure that the entire mix remains moist. This is to encourage the growth of microorganisms that are needed to ensure that decomposition takes place.
When you add water, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen in the right proportion, it becomes easy for microorganisms to develop which in turn ensures the breakdown of compost. Without the development of microorganisms, there will be no composting so it is important that you take proper precautions and follow the procedure detailed in this guide.
Bacteria are the most abundant microorganism needed by compost. They help to speed up the decomposition process due to their microbial activity within the compost pile. Other organisms such as yeast, molds, and fungi also play a major role by breaking down the materials that cannot be disintegrated by active bacteria.
It is also important that earthworms also help to improve the flow of oxygen in the compost pile and ensure proper drainage as they burrow their way through. So you want to be on the lookout for them inside your compost pile.
With the simple yet detailed composting guide provided above, it shouldn’t be difficult to pile up your own compost using green waste from your kitchen or backyard. You want to make sure that you remember to keep the compost moist as this helps to ensure the presence of air and heat which are required by microorganisms for decomposition to occur.
How often do you add compost to your soil, and how do you make your own compost? We will like to hear from you in the comment section.