If you are new to the world of gardening and are looking for an environmentally friendly and economical way to improve the health of your plants, our beginner ‘s guide to composting is for you.

We will find out together what the environmental benefits of composting are and what makes it so “attractive” to plants and to the growers themselves. Paragraph by paragraph, we will explain in detail how to start composting in your garden and what materials to use.

From reducing organic waste to producing a natural, nutritious fertilizer-you’ll see that the benefits of compost are many! In fact, we are talking about a practice that can transform your garden into a decidedly healthier and more prosperous environment.

Let’s start just with the benefits, and then move on to the materials and the main practices for using them.

Advantages of composting in the garden

What are the main benefits of backyard composting?

Composting in the garden is a beneficial activity both for the outdoor environment and for the growers themselves, as it saves time and money, promoting sustainability and long-term soil health.

But let’s go into more detail and discover together all the benefits of backyard composting for vegetables and farmers:

  1. Waste reduction:
    Composting-especially natural compost produced directly in the garden-can reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills, thus helping to reduce environmental impact;
  2. Production of natural fertilizer:
    Composting turns organic waste into a valuable natural fertilizer rich in essential nutrients for plants. In this way, it reduces dependence on chemical fertilizers and promotes soil health;
  3. Improved soil structure:
    Adding compost to soil improves its structure, increasing its ability to retain moisture and improving drainage. All this leads to increased plant vitality and reduced risk of soil erosion;
  4. Reduced need for water and fertilizer:
    Soil enriched with compost requires less water, precisely because compost increases its ability to retain moisture. In addition, because compost provides nutrients to plants, the use of chemical fertilizers can be reduced or eliminated altogether;
  5. Promotion of biodiversity:
    Composting creates a favorable environment for beneficial soil microorganisms, promoting biodiversity and contributing to the overall health of the garden ecosystem;
  6. Economic savings:
    Composting in the garden can help reduce costs associated with the purchase of fertilizer and waste bags, providing a sustainable and low-cost solution for organic waste management.

Composting in the garden: materials and techniques

Now that we have discovered what the benefits of composting are, we can focus on how to do home composting, that is, how to produce compost directly in your own garden and how to use it to improve plant health.

As complex as it may sound, we are talking about a simple agricultural technique that is suitable even for inexperienced growers who are looking for an effective way to take care of their vegetables and reduce organic waste.

In the following paragraphs, we will learn which materials are best suited for producing rich, nutritious compost and what the best practices are for composting in the garden. You will find that the required ingredients are already naturally present in your home, and that you do not need any experience to start making your own organic compost.

Materials suitable for compost production

As promised, let’s start with a simple list of materials suitable for compost production. Scraps and waste are perfect for preparing a natural and functional fertilizer that will be able to offer plants a real energy boot.

To create your own compost you can use:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps (such as banana peels, egg shells, potato peels, salad leaves, etc.).
  • Coffee grounds and coffee filters
  • Dried leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Branches and waste materials that come from pruning plants
  • Non-glossy paper (such as kitchen paper, shredded cardboard, etc.)
  • Newsprint
  • Litter from herbivorous animals (such as rabbit or hamster)
  • Nutshells and seed shells
  • Bird feathers
  • Wood ashes (in small quantities)
  • Hay or straw
  • Tea bags (without agraphing)

Avoid composting materials such as meat, dairy products, oils and fats because they can attract unwanted animals and cause unpleasant odors. Also, avoid composting diseased or pest-infested plants, as composts do not always reach sufficient temperatures to kill pathogens or harmful insects.

By using a combination of these materials, you can create nutrient-rich compost for your garden while reducing organic waste and promoting environmental sustainability.

How to make compost right at home

By following our practical guide to composting in the garden, you will be ready to produce compost directly at home, without needing outside materials. As we have seen, a wide range of organic waste already normally available at home can be easily turned into compost.

Once you have collected all the materials you have, choose a well-drained and partially (or completely) shaded area in your garden. Here you will place your compost pile, which will gradually grow over time.

Start by creating a layer of carbonaceous material, such as dry leaves or shredded paper. Next, add a layer of nitrogen-rich materials, such as kitchen scraps or grass clippings. Continue alternating layers of carbonaceous and nitrogen-rich materials until the pile reaches a height of about one meter.

Once you have built your compost pile, remember to turn it regularly to promote aerobic decomposition and prevent unpleasant odor. Make sure the compost pile stays moist, but not too wet. If the pile seems dry, you can add water to keep it moist.

Over time, your compostable materials will decompose, turning into a valuable natural fertilizer for your garden. Once the compost is mature and has a dark, earthy appearance, you can use it to feed your plants and improve soil health.

By following these simple steps, you can easily make your own compost right at home, reducing organic waste and promoting sustainability in your garden.

How to use compost

Once you understand how to make compost and what materials are best, our list of step-by-step instructions for composting in the garden is enriched with practical information on how to use the fertilizer.

To tell when compost is ready to be used, you only need to look at its external appearance. It should be dark and “earthy,” with a fairly strong but not too overpowering smell. There are several ways you can use it in the garden, here are some practical alternatives:

  • Mulching:
    Spread a layer of compost around your plants as a mulch (protection from cold or high temperatures). This practice helps retain moisture in the soil, reduce erosion and provide nutrients to plants as the compost decomposes;
  • Incorporation into the soil:
    One of the most common techniques is to mix compost directly with garden soil, so as to improve its structure and fertility.
    Before planting new plants or cultivating the soil, mix the compost with the soil. In a short time, it will impart an immediate source of nutrients to the plants and improve the soil’s ability to retain moisture;
  • Natural fertilizer:
    Use compost as a natural fertilizer to nourish your plants. Spread a thin layer of compost around the roots of plants or mix it with water to create a compost infusion to use as a liquid fertilizer;
  • Creating growing beds:
    Use compost to create raised growing beds or to fill plant containers. Compost provides a fertile, nutrient-rich environment for plant roots, promoting healthy, vigorous growth;
  • Creating compost tea:
    Mix compost with water to create compost tea, a nutrient solution that can be sprayed on plant leaves to provide them with nutrients directly through the leaves.

By using compost in these various ways, you can maximize the benefits of compost in your garden, promoting plant health and soil fertility in a sustainable way.

Results and timing of growth

But how long does it take for composting to produce results?

The time it takes to achieve mature compost depends on several factors, including the composition of the compost pile, environmental conditions, and the preparation method used. In general, the composting process can take several weeks to several months to complete.

If composting is managed properly, with the right combination of carbon and nitrogen-rich materials, good aeration, proper moisture and regular turning of the pile, it is possible to achieve mature compost in a relatively short period, usually 2 to 6 months.

However, in some circumstances, the process may take longer. For example, in colder climates or during the winter months, decomposition may slow down due to low temperatures. Similarly, if the compost pile is not managed properly, such as if it lacks aeration or is too dry, the process could be delayed.

How to keep compost healthy and active

To keep composting healthy and active in your garden, it is important to make sure you maintain a good balance between carbon-rich materials (such as dry leaves, shredded paper, cardboard) and nitrogen-rich materials (such as fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings).

Always remember to turn the compost pile regularly to promote aerobic decomposition and prevent odor formation. To succeed without too much effort, you can use a garden fork or shovel, making sure to incorporate the top layers into the compost.

Another crucial factor in the success of composting is temperature. The heat generated by the decomposition of materials is a sign of an active and healthy compost. Monitor the temperature of the compost pile using a composting thermometer. Ideally, the temperature should be between 50°C and 65°C. If the temperature is too low, you may need to add more nitrogen-rich materials or turn the pile to increase aeration.

Finally, avoid adding non-compostable materials, such as meat, dairy products, oils and fats, to the heap because they can attract unwanted animals and compromise the health of the compost.

By following these practices, you can keep your composting healthy and active in the garden, resulting in high-quality compost to feed your plants and improve soil health.

Conclusions

Our journey of discovery on composting in the garden ends here. We have figured out what materials to use for compost preparation, how to take care of the compost pile, and how to take advantage of it to improve plant health.

At this point, you just have to experience the benefits of composting live, reducing organic waste and furthering the process of environmental sustainability. Plants need a few components to grow healthy and strong: light, water and good nutrients coming in from the soil. If we help them with a little extra push, they will be ready to offer tasty, flavorful produce in no time.

Good luck!

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