Making your own Homemade Compost

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Synthetic fertilizer is made from petroleum and it poses a triple threat to the environment. When oil is extracted, processed, and transported, it produces greenhouse gases. Synthetic fertilizer also is unstable and will release additional gasses as it breaks down. Finally, synthetic fertilizer washes away when it rains, contaminating rivers, lakes, and bays with nutrients that can cause algal blooms.

Instead of using synthetic fertilizer, you can improve the health of your garden with home made compost. There are plenty of ways to make earth friendly fertilizer by composting your food scraps, and doing so also cuts down on the amount of gas that the garbage truck burns. Instead of throwing valuable nutrients into the landfill, change your habits and save a few bucks too!

Compost can be made in several different ways. You can use a compost pile, compost trenches, a composter, or a worm bin. Each of these methods produces humus that can be used around the yard. Humus is well balanced soil that contains an ideal mix of nutrients, retains water better than depleted topsoil, and has a rich, healthy color. Humus is also gentle on young plants, because it’s easy for their roots to burrow through.

A compost pile is one of the oldest ways to make compost. Simply stack together branches, twigs, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps in a clearing in your yard. Every couple weeks, take a spade or pitchfork and stir the contents together. Fresh ingredients can be stacked on top of the pile, and finished compost will settle to the bottom.

Compost trenches offer similar results with lower maintenance. When you have a big pile of kitchen scraps, simply dig a deep hole in the ground and bury the organic waste. A 4-6 foot deep hole is about the right depth. Shallow trenches are also useful, but they can attract unwanted animals like possums, skunks, and rodents. Shallow trenches are also a bad idea in certain areas because they stink.

Enclosed composters give a great deal of control over compost and they offer protection from the weather as well as small animals. Compost bins are available in various styles. Tumbling models will aerate the compost for you, while stationary models require turning in the same way that compost piles do. Composting bins can accelerate the decomposition process because they offer insulation and they compress compost ingredients into a small space where the heat that bacteria produce will build up. Finally, when the compost is finished, enclosed composters make it easy to transport humus by rolling or pushing the bin to the spot where it’s needed.

Vermicomposting bins are a unique variation on compost bins. They use small animals such as worms or grubs to break compost down into soil. As the animals eat scraps, they will digest them into soil and use the energy to breed.

No matter which method you choose to produce compost, this natural fertilizer is a great alternative to chemical fertilizer. By composting organic waste, you can make your slice of the world a healthier, more natural place to live!

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Vermicomposting in worm bins

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There are thousands of different worms in the average backyard. They come in about 2,700 different varieties, and many of these species are rarely seen. Some worms are camouflaged to hide in plain sight, and others live deep underground and come to the surface only when they have to. After it rains, worms are easy to find because they breathe through their skin and are driven up to the surface and often climb onto concrete driveways and sidewalks. It’s easy to collect these worms for a compost bin, but there are important differences between the worm species you will encounter.

The Common European Earthworm (which is also called the nightcrawler) lives deep underground, with vertical burrows that go about 6 feet down. Night crawlers are commonly found in gardens or near compost piles, but this worm is ill-suited for compost bins. The nightcrawler’s scientific name is Lumbricus terrestris, and it is an anecic worm that doesn’t like to stay near the surface. If you put nightcrawlers in a compost bin, they will constantly try to escape through the bottom of the worm bin, and they will die from exhaustion instead of breeding or working the soil. Nightcrawlers are also sometimes called “tiger worms” because they have alternating red and buff stripes – those stripes make Nightcrawlers easy to identify.

For a vermicomposting bin, Red Wigglers are the best type of worm because they prefer to live near the surface. There are two very similar worms that are both called Red Wrigglers: Eisena fetida and Eisena andrei. Both species look very similar, and they can live side by side without any problems. As red wigglers eat organic waste, they blend it with soil in the bin. Compared to the original soil levels, their worm castings contain approximately 40% more humus, 150% more calcium, 300% more magnesium, 500% more nitrogen, 700% more phosphates, and 1100% more potash.

Here’s a pictorial worm guide that you can use to identify species in your garden. There are many endangered species of earthworm, and if you find a rare one, you can really help improve our knowledge of the species!

After you collect red wigglers, put them to work around your house! All it takes is a sheltered bin, scrap paper, some healthy soil, and your food scraps. Shredded paper goes along the bottom of the compost bin – this acts as a fence to keep worms inside and it also buffers to moisture of the bin. Since paper soaks up water, the layer of paper will help maintain a constant level of moisture similar to a wrung out sponge. Add a layer of soil to the shredded paper, and then bury food scraps under the soil. The soil acts like a highway for worms, and it also introduces healthy bacteria that will accelerate the breakdown of vegetable rinds and fruit pulp.

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Garden Composting to improve your soil

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Does your yard have terrible soil? If even mesquite trees and tumbleweeds struggle to survive, it’s still possible to save the ground and restore life to the most barren patch of dust. Instead of bringing in bags and bags of topsoil from somewhere else (where they were probably needed!), have you considered composting?

A compost pile or compost bin does 2 good things at once. Composting helps reduce the amount of garbage that you send to a landfill, and it produces nutrient rich soil that can be used to improve the health, water retention, and elasticity of your yard.

Compost is made from organic material and contains many of the elements that plants need in just the right balance. It also contains millions of good bacteria – the very bacteria that spread out into the surrounding earth and restart the cycle of life. Compost holds water very well, which can come in handy if your yard floods easily or has a runoff problem that depletes the soil. Compost is also light and fluffy, which means that it can be used to fill cracks in the ground and it will loosen up compacted soil.

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