If you’ve been digging into gardening for a little while now, you might be wondering about composting. Perhaps you’ve seen it on green-living blogs or have a friend who swears by it. Or maybe it was one of your gardening resolutions for 2018! But what if you’ve never been quite sure exactly what it is or how to do it? So, we’re here to help you out!
Composting is making use of your organic scraps such as veggies, egg shells, and yard trimmings. Those items then decompose, creating a nutrient-rich soil for you to use to bolster your garden! It’s a beautiful way to appreciate and make use of the circle of life, plus, you create much less waste, save money on soil, and ensure your flowers are getting an organic foundation. It’s truly rewarding.
There are a few different ways to compost, as well as two kinds of ways to compost. There is hot composting, which takes more effort but yields quicker results, or there’s cold composting which is more hands-off but won’t give you usable garden soil until about a year or two—read more about which one is right for you here. Below are some of the most popular composting methods, each depending on how involved you want to be, as well as aesthetic.
- Use a closed bin made of recycled plastic to keep everything tidy
- Dig a hole/trench in an area you want to enrich, then bury the compost
- Open bins to create a system for moving compost as it progresses – great for hot composting
- Use a tumbler, which takes out some work and is best for cold composting
- Pile a heap of your compost in the backyard
How to Start Composting for Flower Gardens
If you’re ready to give composting a try, begin fostering the mindset that most food scraps can be reused. Think of all the organic materials you use throughout the day – many of these will be making their way into your compost instead of the trash.
What you need to start your compost
Let’s assume you’ll be starting with one of the easier compost methods since you are a beginner. Piling and using a closed bin are some of the simplest, so these tips will cater to those composting methods.
For your compost, you’ll need…
- A large bin with a lid or an out-of-the-way area in your yard that you don’t mind sacrificing for a big pile of organic matter
- The right types of organic matter—cooked foods, meats, and manure—are no-no’s because of the nutrient balances you’re looking to achieve. Also, keep in mind that uncovered fruits in a pile will attract pesky flies… just something to think about.
- Worms, fly larvae, snails, etc. Before you shudder, just remember that these little guys are the ones working to chew, grind, and decompose your waste into amazingly rich soil that will help your flowers flourish! But as long as you’re composting outside, you don’t need to add these little guys to the mix. They will find their way into your compost by nature.
- “Browns” and “greens,” which refer to carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich items, respectively. You’ll need a nice mix of both, but specific ratios aren’t of extreme paramount. Examples of browns are things like cardboard and dry leaves, and greens are coffee grounds, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. Just monitor your compost over time to see how it’s doing; smell is a great way to tell what materials you may need more or less of.
- A compost thermometer may be necessary if you are hoping to produce high-quality compost. When your pile is at 140-160 degrees (F), it’s actively composting. It will cool down eventually; when it hits 68 degrees, it’s ready to harvest!
When can I use my compost?
If you are doing hot composting and have ideal carbon and nitrogen ratios, your compost can be ready in as little as three months. Otherwise, expect to reap the rewards in a year or more. Keep in mind, also, that the size of your household will dictate how much compost you produce! More mouths to feed at dinner means more kitchen scraps.
Using compost in your flower garden
Once your compost is ready for action, it’s time to bless your buds with some of the best soil they’ve ever seen! It’s recommended to spread your compost over your garden beds in the fall, followed by a covering of winter mulch (chopped leaves work great). This way, by spring, your compost will have worked its way into the soil, giving your Geranium Rozanne and Campanulas a lovely start to spring!