Rural Missouri - May 2018 - 20
by Pamela A. Keene | email@example.com
Here are some of Joe's composting tips:
Use kitchen scraps such as fruit or vegetable peelings, salad
trimmings and coffee grounds.
Use care with adding grass clippings; they can be "too much of a
good thing" if added in bulk.
Poultry manure or bagged manure are excellent additions.
Keep ingredients as small as possible.
Paper products like toilet paper rolls, shredded newspapers or
noncolored junk mail are a good source of brown ingredients.
Turn the pile thoroughly and regularly.
Don't add meat, dairy or grease; they attract vermin and pests.
Don't add weed-producing seeds.
Don't add diseased plants.
Don't add animal waste from carnivores.
top - don't toss out those nonmeat kitchen
scraps. By following the right techniques and
combination of ingredients, you can have some
of the best and least-expensive garden soil
"The secret to successful gardening is the quality
of the soil you plant in, and when you amend your
soil with compost, you're improving your chances for
a more productive garden," says Joe Lamp'l, founder
of www.joegardener.com and the television program
"Growing a Greener World." He also produces podcasts
and is a sought-after speaker at regional and national
gardening symposiums and workshops. "Commercial
soil amendments and organic material can be expensive,
but when you can make your own out of kitchen scraps,
grass clippings and leaves, everyone wins. It's really not
that hard, and you can have fun in the process."
Without getting too technical, compost is made from
biodegraded organic matter. In the right proportions and
conditions, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, earthworms and
arthropods (such as beetles and springtails) break down
the materials. There are four basic ingredients to make
compost: carbon (brown waste), nitrogen (green waste),
air and water.
"You don't need any fancy equipment or tools to start
a compost heap," he says. "Just select an out-of-the-way
spot - behind some shrubs or a far corner of your yard
- and you can just begin putting the ingredients into a
pile. Find an easy-to-access place with water nearby and
you're all set."
If you want to contain the pile, build a three-sided
wire cage, or tie three wooden pallets together with coat
hangers. You also can order closed composting systems
online or from garden centers. Your batches will be
smaller than using an open bin, but the results will be
"Start with woody materials, branches or sticks that
will aid in ventilation, then layer brown, then green
materials, using a formula of roughly two-thirds brown
and one-third green," Joe says.
Examples of green materials, which have a higher
nitrogen content, include fresh grass clippings, pulled
weeds and nonmeat, nonfat kitchen scraps such as
vegetable and fruit peelings and cores, coffee grounds
and used tea leaves. Brown ingredients, those that
furnish carbon that's important to the decomposition
process, include dried leaves, shredded cardboard or
paper, small wood chips and dried grass clippings. You
can add a shovelful of garden soil or a handful of fertilizer
to speed up the process a bit.
"Several other things that come into play when making
compost include moisture, regular aeration and making
sure the ingredients you add are not too big," Joe says.
"As the pile decomposes, it creates heat that further
breaks down the ingredients."
A garden thermometer is a good investment for helping
you maintain the temperature at around 130 degrees.
Some gardeners periodically cover the pile for a couple
of weeks with black plastic garbage bags that will hold
in heat. Remove the bags long enough to aerate weekly.
You should periodically spray the pile with a garden
hose to keep it moist, but be careful not to overwater. The
moisture consistency of a damp sponge is a good gauge.
Composting can take two months to a year or more,
depending on the ratio of brown to green ingredients,
how often the pile is turned or aerated, how much heat
is generated during the process, the size of the pile and
Adding compost to your garden will increase the level
of nutrients and improve the texture of the soil.
"Once you're started composting, using it in your
garden and as topdressing for your landscape, you'll
never go back," he says. "It's one of the best ways to
truly recycle and save money at the same time. And your
gardening successes will improve."
For more gardening advice, visit joegardener.com.
Journalist Pamela A. Keene writes for more than a dozen
publications across the country. Based in Atlanta, she is a
photographer and an avid lifelong gardener.