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Natural Garden Compost Tips

Feb 1, 2008
Every wonder why some of the world's most beautiful natural gardens are found in the most remote places? It's because Mother Nature has done all the work! When you want to create a garden that's naturally lush and vibrant -- without resorting to harsh chemicals -- use nature's perfect fertilizer: garden composting.

Compost provides natural fertilization for all types of plants, from leafy shrubs and trees to exotic flowers. Consider the rainforest, with a thick carpet of naturally-occurring compost. This rich rainforest floor gives continues food, support and shelter for all types of plant life.

You can easily create your own perfect fertilizer, simply by saving food scraps and yard waste. You'll save a load of money on garden center supplies and you'll reduce waste. When you create your own garden compost, it's a win-win-win situation! The finished product is a dark, crumbly mixture of decomposed organic matter.

It's easy to create garden compost, and you'll be happy to see how many ways it can benefit your blooms:

* Feeds plants with essential nutrients

* Reduce the need for harsh fertilizers

* Improves the quality of sandy soil or heavy clay

* Reduce the amount of water required

* Helps to control invasive weeds

Creating Your Own Garden Compost

The recipe for garden compost is quite basic. The natural gardener's rule of thumb is to use one part green to two parts brown.

A compost pile is a bustling community of microorganisms. These tiny creatures exist by breaking down organic matter, like yard debris and organic scraps, and turning them into compost. You'll need to take an active role in encouraging the growth of these microorganisms.

Use natural flower fertilizers that are two parts carbon-rich "brown" materials, such as dried leaves. Mix this with one-part nitrogen-rich "green" materials, such as grass clippings. The end result will be an all-natural fertilizer that's the perfect fuel for those hungry populations of microorganisms. Before long, they'll be heating up your yard debris and producing valuable garden compost.

Ingredients

Your "two parts brown" can contain any combination of the following materials:

* Dried leaves and grass clippings

* Small sticks and twigs

* Shredded newspaper

* Hay or straw

* Wood chips, wood shavings or sawdust

* Old potting soil

The "one part green" may include one or more of these healthy materials:

* Fresh grass clippings

* Fresh, green leaves

* Plant stems and stalks

* Hedge trimmings

* Annual weeds (no seed heads)

* Vegetable and fruit scraps

* Coffee grounds, filters and tea bags

* Eggshells

Some materials should NEVER be used in garden compost:

* Diseased plants

* Seed heads from weeds

* Invasive weeds (quack grass, morning glory)

* Cereal grains and bread

* Meat, fish or bones

* All dairy products

* Oily foods, cooking oil or grease

* Pet droppings

* Deceased animals

Size Does Matter

Smaller composting components bring about rich, usable compost more quickly. Large pieces of vegetables obviously take longer to break down than smaller pieces. Leftover fruits and vegetables should be chopped into small pieces. Garden debris can be cut up with shears or a machete. A garden chipper, shredder or lawnmower mulching attachment is a handy tool for breaking up sticks and twigs.

For even faster garden compost action, your compost pile should be no less than three feet in diameter. Size is important, because the actual composting occurs from the heat generated by those millions of microorganisms living in your soil. As they process the raw materials, they release energy that helps to activate the decomposition. A compost pile of at least three square feet is the best size for hotter, faster composting.

Air and Water

All living things, including compost need air and water to survive. Microorganisms living in your garden compost can't do their jobs without ample supplies of water and air. You should sprinkle water over your compost on a regular basis, but don't drown it. Just use enough water to create the consistency of a damp sponge.

To incorporate air into the mixture, use a pitchfork to turn the compost materials one every week. This can also help to distribute the efforts of the microorganisms. If you don't turn the compost, you'll have a rich layer of compost at the bottom of the pile, and a heap of dry garden waste on top.

The best gardening advice comes right from the source: Mother Nature herself. Natural garden compost is so easy to make, and your bright, beautiful plants will be more than enough payment for your efforts.
About the Author
Essayist Garnett Foards writes for numerous popular Internet magazines, on family and home issues.
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