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Composting Basics

Composting is a great, easy way to minimize our impact on the environment. Compost is a natural process, wherein decaying organic material is broken down by microbes and bacteria, creating rich nutrients and soil. You can reduce landfill waste by composting your garden cuttings, kitchen waste, and dead leaves into nutrient rich soil. By following some simple guidelines, you can compost to create keep both your indoor and outdoor plants healthy.

Beginning a compost pile is simple. Create an area where you would like to begin collecting organic material. Place a compost bin or bucket in the desired area, or gather material around a freestanding pole. You can even create a bin by stacking hay bales into a box shape. This type of bin will decompose over time, enriching the soil even more.

The best compost is created from a good mixture of "greens" and "browns." Grass clippings, live weeds, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and tea bags are all greens. Browns include dead leaves, straw, hay, or dead weeds. A good mixture of both of these will create the best compost. Ensure that the pile is well aerated, as the beneficial microbes must have air to properly break down the organic matter. All compost piles should be moist. A thin layer of water should cover each layer as moisture is another element necessary for proper microbial growth. You may wish to cover your compost with a tarp to prevent it from becoming too dry or too wet. The ideal temperature for your compost is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as a hot pile will decompose faster than a cool pile. If your climate is cooler in the winter, the pile may go dormant, but will reactivate in the spring.

Though many perishables can be added to a compost pile, some items should never be added as they can introduce disease or hinder the beneficial microbes. Never add fatty foods, meat, or bones to the pile. These food scraps will attract pests, and do not break down quickly. Chemically treated wood products should also be excluded as they often contain elements that become toxic when the wood breaks down. Neither human nor animal feces should be introduced to compost piles as they contain elements which could make you sick and also add an unpleasant aroma to your compost.

Once your compost pile reaches a dark, rich color and has an earthy smell, you may use it. Mix the compost into your soil prior to planting in raised planters or gardens, or spread it around the surface as mulch once you've planted. Mix it with indoor planting soil to provide additional enrichment, or dilute it in water for a nutrient rich fertilizer. This compost tea will help seedlings grow, or help boost unhealthy or newly transplanted plants.

BestNest carries a full line of composting items, such as planter beds, composting bins, and accessories for your composting needs.