Getting Your Garden Ready: Composting 098

With Spring right around the corner, many of you are probably starting to think about gardening! I know I am. The thought of warm sunshine and beautiful green things growing in my backyard is such a lovely thought this time of year. If you are thinking about gardening this Spring, no need to wait to begin… you can actually start working on your garden NOW! A great first step in organic gardening is to begin composting.

Kale freshly cut from our winter garden

Compost is defined as: “A mixture of decaying organic matter, as from leaves and manure, used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients” (thefreedictionary.com, 2012). Composting is a free and super easy way to create wonderfully rich soil for your garden. Granted there are special composting devices you can purchase, but truthfully you don’t need anything to compost, except for a designated space in your yard. There are different methods of composting, but the method I use is the most basic/simple approach (hence the title Composting 098…actually a step below the 101 level). It basically consist of a rotting pile of food in our backyard. 🙂 Yes, there are more scientific approaches, but if simple works why not just let life be simple?

Our compost pile; you can see the potato scraps grew into potato plants completely on their own

Start by surveying your backyard and selecting a place to compost. You will want to pick a place that gets a lot of sunshine. When selecting a location consider the following: a compost pile can be stinky, will attract bugs, and is not the most aesthetically pleasing site. This may factor into the distance you place it from your house. Additionally you want a place that makes it easy to transfer scraps from kitchen to compost pile and compost pile to garden. However you may want to limit accessibility to it if you have pets or small children. Our garden is fenced in and in a corner of  the garden is the compost pile.

Bowl of food scraps that sits on our counter

Next step is to develop a system of storing food scraps. Our method is simply a large bowl that sits on the counter and is added to throughout the day. Each night it gets emptied into the outdoor compost pile. You can put whatever food scraps you want into your compost pile, however we mostly limit ours to fruits, veggies, and coffee grounds. It is typically suggested to avoid putting dairy, meat, and oils into your compost pile. You can add grass and yard clippings into your compost pile, as well as paper products. If you are not going to use your compost for growing vegetables, and strictly for landscaping soil you can be more lenient about what you put into it. However if you are going to eat what grows in your composted soil, be more conservative regarding what you place in your compost pile.

Yesterday's lunch included cooked Kale grown in our very own backyard! Talk about locally grown food!!

Once you have your pile going, it honestly won’t need a lot of attention from you. You may turn it once in a while with a rake or spray it down with water if you live in a hot, dry climate like ours. But mostly you let it sit there and decompose using nature’s gifts of air and sunshine. You will know when your pile is ready to use in your garden because it will start to look less like rotting food and more like soil. This varies depending on the climate you live in and how much food scraps you generate, but it can take as little as a few months to have some beautiful organic soil ready for seeds!

Are you planning a Spring garden? If so what will you be growing? Would love to hear your garden plans!! 🙂

-Sarah

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6 Responses to “Getting Your Garden Ready: Composting 098”

  1. Linda says:

    A nice idea, but I think it is not really working in my area, since I live in an area with a lot of animals who are going to eat it.. Raccoons, rats, ect. Maybe I can make it a closed compost pile, with fences or something. I would really love to try out this idea, so maybe I should put a little more effort in it. Closing it is not that hard!

  2. Kelly says:

    With everything completely open, how do you not attract rats, raccoons, etc.? I’m picturing lots of scavengers and rotting food all over my yard – lol!

    • Sarah says:

      We live in the AZ so there are no raccoons or rats here. 🙂 Some people have bunny issues here but we have dogs so they keep bunnies away. When we lived in CO we also had an open compost pile with no animal issues but again that may have been due to having dogs that roamed our property?

      I grew up in IL and have many memories of raccoons knocking over our garbage cans during the night and my dad getting mad at having to pick up trash from the yard, so I would imagine an open compost pile could prose a problem in some areas…especially if you don’t have a dog to chase unwanted rodents away. 🙂

      Sarah

  3. Connie says:

    I love the simplicity. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Mary says:

    Great article! We will be planting our spring/early summer garden here in the next few weeks. We just put our potatoes, onions and garlic in. We always do a ton of tomatoes, a variety of peppers, squash and zuc’s. We did watermelon and melons last year for the first time and this year it will be going into an area of it’s own…it about consumed our whole garden! Oh and beans and peas are always a hit too.
    I really want to do a compost pile but living in the country I worry about the rodents(and our dogs and the dogs that roam from up the road). I’m trying to to talk the guy into making one that is enclosed and you tumble or stir it. I hate seeing all of our veggie and fruit waste go into the garbage.

    • Sarah says:

      I love growing potatoes, onions, and garlic. They seem to grow so effortlessly! We have not had much luck with tomatoes here 🙁 which is such a bummer because garden tomatoes are always sooo delicious!

      If you are worried about attracting animals to your compost pile, then an enclosed one is probably your best option. You could probably make on out of almost any large container or maybe even check craigslist?

      Happy gardening to you!!
      Sarah