Composting is nature’s way of recycling, by that I mean, It is a natural process of breaking down organic materials into soil-like materials. Question, compost vs. fertilizer: which is the better option?
If you look at the disadvantages and advantages of both, I’m sure that you will conclude that compost is the better option, why? The major advantages of using compost are:
- Promotes healthy microbe growth.
- Delivers organisms such as earthworms that aerate the soil.
- Increases organic matter in soil.
- Decreases the volume of household trash to landfill.
The only disadvantage of using compost is. If you add plant remnants containing soil-borne pathogens to the mixture, you can cause an infestation in healthy marijuana plants. On the other hand, using fertilizer has lots of disadvantages, for example, if you overuse fertilizer, the chemicals found in it may harm the environment and there is also the risk of overloading soil with nutrients (bad for cannabis plants).
What to Compost
There is a wide variety of organic materials that can be successfully composted. Generally, to make good compost, you need green and brown plant materials, why? Green plant materials contain high amounts of nitrogen and brown plant materials are rich in carbon.
Here is a table to simplify things.
|What to compost||Never compost|
|Leaves||Meat, grease, bones|
|Vegetable and leftover food||Cheese, sour cream|
|Coffee grounds||Egg yolks|
|Wood chips||Cat or dog manure|
|Shredded paper||Diseased or insect-ridden plants|
|Old plants, wilted flowers, and prunings||Troublesome weeds|
|Hay and straw||Plants treated with herbicides or pesticides|
If done properly, composting destroys disease-causing pathogens, insect larvae, herbicides and it degrades antibiotics. But the problem is. the sides and top of the compost pile are often cooler than the center of the pile meaning, the entire pile may not have been exposed to high temperatures needed to kill all pathogens. That’s why you are advised to avoid disease or pesticide ridden plants.
The problem with meat, grease, and bones is. The odor may attract rodents and other pests to your compost.
How to Build a Compost Bin
- Wooden shipping pallets: if you live near a factory, look for four discarded shipping pallets and tie them together to build a compost bin.
- Wire bin: chicken or fencing wire can be easily turned into a cylinder-shaped composting bin.
- Trash can: cut off the bottom with a knife, drill 48-inch holes in the sides and place the unit onto the soil.
How to Make Compost
Tools you will need
- Handheld pitchfork:
- Compost thermometer (long probe): optimum temperature for compost to process is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Compost Bin
- Green and dry plant materials
Ratio of browns to green
After making or purchasing a compost bin, the next question is. What ratio?
The ratio of browns to greens which is known as the “carbon-to-nitrogen” ratio or C:N varies depending on plant material available. The important thing to remember is that there should be more dead brown plant material than fresh green nitrogen-rich plant material.
For faster composting you should shred both green and brown plant materials using a hatchet, weed trimmer, machete or by hand.
Note that piles containing green piles (high nitrogen materials) will heat up faster than browns.
N= Nitrogen; NN= Higher nitrogen content; NNN=highest nitrogen content; C=carbon; CC=higher carbon content; CCC=highest carbon content
|6 parts Dry leaves||CC||Browns|
|3 parts fresh grass clippings||NN||greens|
|3 parts food scraps||N|
|1 part food scraps||CC||Browns|
|1 part fresh garden weeds||NN||Greens|
|1 part grass clippings||NN||Greens|
|3 parts fresh grass clippings||NN||Greens|
|Dry grass clippings||cc||Browns|
These are just examples. Make your own special blend and tell us about it in the comment section.
How to Build a Compost Bin
- Layer 1: Start with a layer of shredded leaves and straws first. From there, build your composts in layers of “green” and “brown”. This can be done all at once or gradually as plant materials become available. If you are using leftover vegetables, cover them with soil or leaves to cover the smell and to control insects.
- Layer 2: half inch animal manure, starter or fertilizer (accelerate ignition)
- Layer 3: plain garden soil.
- Using your pitchfork, turn the contents after every two weeks. Doing this introduces air, helps heat up the pile for more rapid decomposition and mixes old and new materials.
- If the weather is dry you may have to occasionally water the compost pile. The idea is to keep the pile moist but not wet throughout the process i.e. water moderately and check your pile once or twice a week.
3-6 months later
Under the right conditions, your compost should be ready after 3-6 months. You know it’s ready when it looks like coarse dark soil or humus. The finished product will shrink so get your math right at the beginning. Once it’s ready, take out the finished product and return plant materials that are not fully decomposed to the bin.
It is not a must that you buy a composting bin; heap composting is a method whereby plant materials are piled on top of each other directly on the ground. The problem with heap composting is, if you don’t make the pile big enough, it will remain at low temperatures hindering the heating process. Therefore, if you choose this option, make sure that the pile is at least 6’ x 6’ or larger (the bigger the pile the better the results).
To make compost tea, you will need quality finished compost. What you have to do is. Fill a bucket 1/3 full of compost then add water to the top of the bucket. After that, let the mixture sit for 3 or more days and then stir it.
Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth and dilute the remaining liquid and use the tea immediately.
Problems you may encounter
|Mold or dry center||Not enough water||Moisten and turn|
|Damp in the middle but dry everywhere else||The pile is too small||Add more plant materials|
|Bad odor||Not enough air or too much greens||Aerate and add brown material|
|Low temperatures (not heating up)||Lack of nitrogen||Add green materials to the pile|
It’s your turn, go out there, create a composting recipe that works, and tell us about it.