Is your garden looking a little down these days? Maybe the blossoms on your flowers are few and far between or your vegetables look thin and meager. It may be because your plants’ soil lacks the nutrients needed to grow big and strong.
Just like children need vitamins and minerals to grow up strong, so do plants. When the soil offers too few nutrients, it can be hard for them to thrive. While some store-bought soils can work wonders for gardens, there’s a way to help your garden without having to spend so much on soil. It’s called composting, and all things considered, it’s the best thing you can do for your garden that is almost completely free
At Natran, we’re committed to going green in every way possible. If you’re interested in starting a compost pile or bin in your backyard, here’s how it can benefit the earth and your garden and how to get started.
How composting benefits the planet
Soil depletion happens all over Houston, whether it happens gradually over time when so many plants have been growing in the same location or the soil was rocky and packed with clay to begin with. The result is still the same: You have poor soil that does not make for a habitable home for plants to grow.
So what exactly is composting and how does it fit in with soil depletion. Composting is the act of breaking down organic, nutrient-packed matter that can be added to soil in the garden. The plants growing will be able to suck up the nutrients over time, allowing them to grow bigger and thrive. Think of composting as conditioner for soil. In hair, conditioner provides nutrients to keep your hair strong and shiny. Composting works the same way.
But composting also helps the planet in other ways. The organic matter that breaks down usually comes mostly from kitchen waste — banana peels, apple cores, rotten produce. If it’s thrown away and put in a landfill, this organic matter won’t break down as easily because there’s no air to help it. Instead, the organic matter will release a harmful methane gas, which contributes to global warming and climate change. By composting, you can reduce what you throw away by as much as 30%, and that does a lot of good for the planet.
In the long run, composting reduces the amount of garbage we throw away in landfills. If everyone started composting, we’d see a drastic reduction in landfill waste — and our flowers would touch the sky.
What we especially love about composting here at Natran is that it keeps harmful chemicals out of the soil. Fertilizers and pesticides have chemicals in them that can be harmful to your family and pets, and if it rains, those chemicals can run off your lawn and into the water supply. Sure, we have water filtration systems, but wouldn’t it be better not to put those chemicals into the earth at all? As purveyors of green pest control, we say there are better ways.
Composting is one of those ways. When the organic matter breaks down, it aerates the soils and wards off plant diseases and pests. If your garden is prone to certain diseases, using compost to fertilize the soil can help you ward off diseases without having to use a store-bought fertilizer.
So composting can help you save money in three different ways:
When you commit to starting a compost bin or pile (depending on your preference), you’re saving your wallet and the earth, and we can’t think of any other better reasons not to get started right away.
How to start a compost pile
So you’re ready to start making a difference in your garden and environment? Getting started with a compost pile or bin doesn’t take much — just a little effort and willingness to make good things grow.
Here are the basics on how to start a compost pile in your backyard right now.
What should be added to a compost pile
What your compost pile needs to thrive will mostly depend on what kind of composter you have (we’ll get into that later), but for the most part, you need items that will create a working balance of carbon and nitrogen. When in balance, these two elements break down matter and release nutrients.
If it’s been a while since high school chemistry, here’s a quick primer:
Most gardeners follow an easy rule of thumb for their compost piles: You should have one-third green materials to two-thirds brown materials. The brown matter will allow air to circulate among the green materials (remember how landfills prevented this from happening?) and encourage organisms to grow there. If there’s too much nitrogen, you’ll have a nasty smell coming from your compost bin. When there’s enough carbon, you’ll have a fresh smell instead. It never hurts to add a little more carbon, so always add a little extra just in case.
But not everything should be thrown in your compost bin. Here are a few good examples.
The materials mentioned above are just some of the matter than can be used to compost. Do a little research to find others. In most cases, you probably won’t have to look far to find compostable materials in your own life.
How to choose a composter
You can either use a compost bin or tumbler or a pile in your backyard to start composting. It will mostly depend on where you live and what you intend to compost.
In the beginning, start small and work your way up.
How to start composting
Now that you know what should go into a compost pile or bin and which container should best suit your needs, it’s time to start composting for real. Here’s how to get started.
Once you have a good base going, you can mix in new materials without layering. Just continue to follow the one-third nitrogen to two-thirds carbon rule. You can buy a compost tin for your kitchen, which will hold kitchen scraps until they’re ready to be added to the pile. Save and shred newspapers and paper, which are good sources of carbon and easily available.
Now these rules will vary depending on where you’re composting and how much space you have. Urban dwellers might not have access to soil to start, so a compost tumbler or worm bin should be the best route. Those in rural area or suburban ones with lots of space should put their compost bins farther from the house, but not too far, or else you might have difficulty watering it. Make sure the bin or pile is not near wooden structures like decks or fences. Those same materials breaking down in your compost bin will start breaking down your wood too.
Over time, your compost bin will provide you with nutrient-rich soil that can be transplanted around your garden. It can be used to help all your plants grow strong and healthy, benefitting your local ecosystem and the planet as a whole. Remember, plants are a vital part of the ecosystem, affecting everything from air quality to food sources. Healthy trees and plants clean our air, and blooming flowers provide food for pollinators such as bees and birds.
Good compost piles will benefit your garden for years to come. Tell us: What are your most burning questions when it comes to composting? Let us know in the comments and share with us how our green pest control can keep out garden pests and pesticides from your garden.