Keep your landscape healthy by using compost.
The best way to raise healthy plants is to have healthy soil, and the best way to have healthy soil is to enrich it with high-quality compost. Using compost adds essential minerals and nutrients, improves soil structure, allows better root growth, and increases moisture and nutrient retention in the soil. Making your own compost reduces the volume of garbage to be landfilled, and saves you money on disposal costs and fertilizer purchases.
Composting is a controlled process of decomposition of organic material. Naturally occurring soil organisms (bacteria, fungi, molds, worm, insects) recycle nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and other plant nutrients as they convert the material into humus. The process of composting is simply a matter of providing the soil organisms with food, water, and oxygen – and letting them do the work.
Get started with a bin.
You can make your own compost bin by using inexpensive wire mesh or even a trash can with holes drilled into the bottom. More attractive bins can be purchased through many garden centers. Many towns offer low-cost compost bins (around $25), thanks to grants from the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection.
Coffee makes great compost.
Used coffee grounds are a fabulous addition to your compost bin, and are much too valuable for the landfill! Coffee grounds help retain moisture, feed earthworms, loosen and enrich the soil, and the caffeine even helps repel slugs. Toss your used coffee grounds into your compost bin, along with the paper filter. Ask your favorite coffee shop if you can recycle their used grounds – your yard will love you for it!
Composting is easy!
As much as 50% of our household waste and nearly all of our yard “waste” can be easily composted. Follow these four easy steps to make your own “black gold”.
- Step One: Add three parts “browns”. These are materials high in carbon, and include dried leaves, straw, salt marsh hay, shredded paper (cardboard, newspaper, paper towels, paper plates, paper bags), chipped brush, sawdust, used potting soil and pine needles (pine needles should not make up more than 10% of total material in the pile).
- Step Two: Add one-part “greens”. These are materials high in nitrogen, and include grass clippings, green leaves, vegetable and fruit scraps, seaweed, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, and animal manure (NOT dog or cat). You can add weeds from your landscape, but do not add those that are invasive or have already gone to seed.
- Step Three: Keep the pile aerated. Compost critters need oxygen to do their work. Every time you add material to your pile, fluff and turnover the pile with a hoe or pitchfork. More aeration makes faster compost.
- Step Four: Keep the pile damp. If you hear dry material rustling when you aerate your pile, you need to add water. Only damp compost piles will decompose. Keep the pile moist by occasionally leaving the lid off when it rains, or use the water from your rain barrel.
USE COMPOST TEA – AN ENERGY BOOST FOR YOUR PLANTS!
Compost tea is one of the most beneficial things you can add to your yard to spur healthy plant growth. Compost tea teems with bacteria, fungi and microbes – all extremely beneficial to plants.
Compost tea is a liquid form of compost. This nutrient-rich brew is made by steeping compost in oxygenated water. When sprayed on plant leaves, compost tea helps fight disease as well as feed the plant. Make your Compost Tea Brew with a brewer available at many nurseries.
Visit the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection’s composting website for information about where you can purchase a compost bin.
Once you have your bin, check out the composting chapter of the Greenscapes Guide for step-by-step instructions for making your own “black gold” for your landscape. See also the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection’s composting website for more information.