Making compost for a beautiful garden is fairly simple. Even small gardens can have a neat little compost bin tucked in a corner.
I am sure most of you have heard of compost. You can easily make compost and it is one of the best things you can do to create a beautiful and healthy garden.
Compost makes great soil. Great soil makes growing anything so much easier.
Making compost is not hard and you can even DIY some rather good-looking compost bins.
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Patience is key to composting success and creating the right mix of ingredients.
I am a lazy composter, I don’t have time to be turning it constantly. More turning of the ingredients means faster composting but you can also use a method that does not require turning.
What can you compost?
Anything that has lived. That is the overly simple answer. You would want to avoid meat and dairy products in your compost bin or pile as it attracts vermin and for me, bears.
You also would avoid using pet waste (aka: dog or cat doo) unless your pets are chickens. More on what not to compost later.
Nice bins keep things tidy and can help speed up your compost action.
For an easy DIY compost bin that you won’t have to hide, build yourself this one. It is relatively inexpensive and looks great. Press here to see the step by step of building this compost bin from cedar fence boards.
There are also fancy 3 part bins you can build or buy. One section is for the start, then you turn it into the next section where it cooks more then on the the last bin for the finished product.
Here is a link to how to build one of these for yourself if you would rather go the DIY route. Click on the photo or text below it.
DIY 3 bin composter
There is also a one bin wire composter for smaller gardens.
Another one I have yet to try but many swear by are the tumbling composters.
They take the heavy work out of the process. This is one I may give a try soon, it has good reviews on Amazon and is reasonably priced.
Yimby Tumbler Composter
The one below is similar to one I have and it is a trooper. I have had to put it back together a few times after the local bears thought they might like something that it contained.
I have had it about 10 years now and it has worked well despite the bears. You would think it would be ready to retire but I just keep putting it back together.
Now if you are a handy person and want a pretty compost bin this may be for you.
I really like this one as you can have it just about anywhere in your garden and it is as attractive as it is useful.
Full instructions. Black and Decker Ideas DIY Compost Bin
Even if I don’t get that fancy it does spark some ideas. Like using lattice panels and cut them to size instead of all the piece work. (or see what I did above with my DIY compost bin)
I once used 4 pallets attached together for a very large compost bin, I wish I had photos of it. I need to build another and I shall share how I do it.
Here is a three sided pallet compost bin I am using behind my greenhouse. The fourth side is the greenhouse wall. Though it works it is not that attractive.
Straw bale hot bed as compost bin
Another super easy compost containment I have used successfully is straw bales.
I actually turn it into a hot bed where I get an early start on my heat loving veggie plants or grow salad greens through the winter.
Read all about it here: Straw Bale Garden Bed
here is an interesting post on using straw or hay, just as a word of caution of a new threat I Think I Poisoned My Garden
So now that I have shown you some great composters what do you actually compost?
What to use in Garden Compost
Ideally you have a 50/50 mix of green and brown (carbon and nitrogen) ingredients.
Green is essentially kitchen veggie scraps, used coffee grounds, grass clippings etc. and the brown can be straw, leaves, small twigs, sawdust and even cardboard.
My chicken litter is a good mix already as I use a lot of straw in their pen but I toss it into the compost bin too.
The chicken litter makes a great composting action starter but if you don’t have chickens you can buy chicken manure at most garden centers.
What NOT to put in your composter:
1. No pesticides or herbicides (or plants you have used them on)
2. Diseased plant material that could outlive the heat of the composting action.
3. Pet manure (dog or cat)
4. Plants that have gone to seed that you don’t want in your garden or perennial weeds that just won’t die. ie: bindweed, bermuda grass, and the like.
5. Large pieces of wood, logs, limbs etc. They just won’t break down.
(my straw bale bin is different, I do place rotting wood chunks at the base before adding the other material, they will breakdown over a longer period of time and the wood provides a water retention element that works wonderfully)
Some say no citrus but that is not completely accurate, in low amounts citrus peels in the compost is just fine, I have used it for years, but compared to the other ingredients the citrus I include is really small and usually already dried out.
Why dried out?
I actually prefer tossing the fresh citrus peels on top of garden beds, they will keep most cats at bay while still moist, once the sun has dried them out they no longer act as a deterrent to the cats.
see what compost can do for your flowers, works great in veggie gardens too!
How to Compost
Ideally, after layering the ingredients in your bin you would turn your compost every other day or so and keep it cooking faster (this is where one of those tumbling composters is a great idea) but as I said I am lazy and let it do its thing on its own.
I usually really fill my compost bins with plants cut back through the summer, coffee grounds, and kitchen scraps along with the Fall clean up of the garden, and let them just work over winter.
By the next Spring a lot of it has been composted down, there is still some on top that is not composted but I just put that aside to start a new bin.
Underneath what I set aside is worm-filled, nutrient-rich compost. But be aware that if you fill a bin full of ingredients what you get will be about 1/3 of the volume of the bin of compost.
So don’t think if you fill the bin with composting materials you will get a full bin of compost. It really breaks down to much less but what you do get is garden gold.
If you want to sieve it for a finer product these really come in handy.
There is also DIY plans for making your own if you wish. Just google it or see my Pinterest board for Composting.
Do you want to make instant compost? Click here to create the easiest compost ever!
Regenerate Your Soil
If you’re new to gardening, you might think that the key to a thriving garden is to fertilize, fertilize, fertilize. Just stop, Regenerate the Soil instead!
The easier you make the process the more likely you will have success because when it is easy we are more likely to follow through.
For more on getting started on a garden read my Start a Lazy Gal’s Garden.
It is never too late to start. Do you have a favorite way to compost?
A comprehensive article on composting you may find helpful. The Ultimate Compost Guide
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