One of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy and productive garden is ensuring that the soil is rich in nutrients. While there are many ways to achieve this, one of the most effective and sustainable methods is through composting. Composting is the process of breaking down organic material into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be added to your garden beds to provide your plants with the necessary nutrients to thrive.
Let’s walk through the basics of composting, including the correct ratio of brown and green matter, the benefits of different types of manure, and tips to make the process as efficient as possible.
Getting Started with Composting
The first step in composting is to choose a location for your compost pile or bin. This can be a designated area in your garden or a container specifically designed for composting. Regardless of where you choose to compost, it's important to ensure that your compost pile or bin is well-aerated and moist.
Once you have your composting setup, it's time to start adding organic material. Brown matter, (such as dried leaves,branches, cardboard) is the majority of the compost material. Green matter, (such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps and manure) makes up the remainder. It's important to maintain the correct ratio of brown to green matter in your compost pile, which should be around 2:1. This balance ensures that the compost will break down efficiently and provide a balanced nutrient profile.
It's important to note that not all organic materials are created equal when it comes to composting. Some materials breakdown more quickly than others, and some provide more nutrients than others. That's where manure comes in.
Using Manure in Composting
Manure is an excellent addition to your compost pile because it provides a source of nitrogen, which is necessary for the decomposition process. However, not all types of manure are created equal, and each type has its own timeline for breaking down.
Chicken manure is one of the most popular types of manure used in composting, due to its high level of nitrogen and other nutrients. It can take as little as six to eight weeks for chicken manure to fully break down, making it a great choice if you're looking to get a huge boost of growth out of your plants. Most people, however, prefer to compost the chicken manure for 6 months or a year. This gives the manure plenty of time to break down. Chicken manure if used too quickly can be so high in nitrogen that it actually burns and kills plants. It also tends to carry more harmful bacteria than other manure and through the extended process of composting these harmful traits breakdown. The benefits of chicken manure is that once fully composed it provides 2-3 times the amount of available nutrients than other manure options.
Cow manure is another popular choice for composting, as it provides a balance of nitrogen and carbon. Where cow manure lacks in comparison to chicken manure in terms of overall nutritional value, it makes up for in its decreased compost time and largely increased volume. Due to the increased digestive system of cows and other ruminants, the waste is in a very broken down state that allows it to be composted into the soil and used by the plants and micronutrients rapidly.
Horse manure, on the other hand, takes longer to breakdown and provides a lower level of nitrogen. It can take anywhere from six months to a year for horse manure to fully compost, making it a good choice if you're looking for a slower-release fertilizer or wanting to utilize your access to horse manure!
Tips for Efficient Composting
To make the composting process as efficient as possible,there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, ensure that your compost pile or bin is well-aerated. This can be achieved by turning the pile regularly or using a bin with built-in aeration. The more you turn the pile, the faster your compost will break down by allowing the oxygenation process to take place.
Also, keep your compost pile moist but not too wet. The ideal moisture level is around 50%, which can be achieved by adding water as needed when dry and covering the pile when lots of rain is expected.
Composting is an excellent way to maintain healthy,nutrient-dense soil in your garden. It’s a great way to eliminate waste and to economically improve your garden from your own resources.
Please come in and talk with our staff at either of our stores and we’ll help you get all setup!
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