The weather today in Central Texas was gorgeous with temperatures in the upper 70's and clear blue skies. It definitely felt more like Spring than Winter. On the drive home I noticed trees starting to bud and spring bulbs peeking through the soil. With Spring being just around the corner I found myself planning my upcoming vegetable and herb garden. The thought of homegrown vegetables put a smile the size of Texas on my face, but after last years poor results I wanted to make sure I did all I could to fill my baskets to the top this year. After lots of thought, I realized I skipped one thing last year that I normally do, composting. I guess I thought it was an unnecessary step, but after doing a little research I discovered the reasons I was wrong and I want to share why your garden needs "black gold".
Compost, also known as black gold or soil conditioner improves the structure of all soil types so that the soil retains nutrients, moisture, and air resulting in healthier plants. This natural recycling process turns organic material such as leaves and vegetable scraps into nutrient-rich soil. Soil that has been combined with compost will have a crumbly texture, better drainage, retain moisture, and will easily turn over. Make a habit of adding compost to your soil every planting season.
Now that we know why we should add compost to our soil let's look at how we can make our own right at home.
1. First, decide on what type of compost bin you will be using. You can purchase a plastic compost bin at many stores or you can build your own from leftover wood and chicken wire. Your bin should be 3 ft deep, 3 ft wide, and 3 ft high. Be sure to set up your bin in a shaded area with water access.
2. Gather leaves, twigs, sawdust, wood chips, branches, shredded newspaper or cardboard, and coffee filters. This is known as your BROWN material and will be used as your base.
3. Save your basic kitchen scraps such as greens, fruit peels and cores, tea, and coffee grounds. This, along with grass clippings will be your GREEN material and provides nitrogen for the recycling process.
4. Layer the BROWN and GREEN materials in your compost bin. The ratio should be 3 parts BROWN and 1 part GREEN.
5. Water, water, water. Adding water regularly encourages the breakdown of the materials and aids in the recycling process.
6. Turn or mix up the materials in your compost bin. This not only encourages the breakdown of the materials but also reduces the smell and promotes aeration. Steam coming from the heap tells you that the breakdown process is successful.
7. Once your heap has turned into a dark rich brown color and is free of any food waste it is time to put it to use. Infuse it into lawns, garden soil, and plant-soil to add nutrients and encourage organic growth.
Composting is great for your garden and great for our environment as well. It reduces the methane emissions from landfills and lowers the carbon footprint so save your scraps, set up your bin, and start working on creating your own black gold.