This year, one of the things that I am digging into is compost and using natural nutrients for the garden. And I would love for you to learn along with me! Compost reduces waste and is very cost-efficient, especially when you think about how much you can spend on store-bought compost and nutrients. I feel like sometimes my plants don’t get the nutrients they need because I don’t want to shell out for all the expensive products at my local nursery, so I am determined to fix the problem myself. Compost can be an important addition to the garden to help prevent nutrient deficiencies because of it’s three main nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Many times soil is too rich or too low in these nutrients, and adding compost can help balance it out and give your garden better odds at being healthy. It also provides a good dose of important micronutrients including manganese, copper, iron, and zinc, all of which are vital to plant growth.
I started an experiment in my laundry room to create plant nutrients and to see how compost works. It is very small scale, and I am limiting the types of materials to be included out of fear of smell (I know, I’m a paranoid newbie!). It was simple to create and I just used things I found around the house.
Composting doesn’t have to be this big, complicated, hard thing. If you think about it, things decompose in nature every day. You don’t need to worry about exact science of perfect layering techniques and carbon to nitrogen ratios, however the materials you decide to add into your compost do matter. If you did happen to have the time and wanted to play with science, it would be pretty interesting to see how your compost turned out when controlling all the variables. Either way, composting is pretty awesome in that some of your waste gets to have a second life and not end up in a landfill.
Just to give you an idea of all the things that can end up in the compost, here’s a simple list:
Although it doesn’t have to be a precise scientific mixture, nitrogen and carbon do play important roles in the breakdown of compost. Too much much nitrogen can cause your compost to be stinky, and too much carbon won’t allow the materials to break down. So if you see either of those problems, mess with your balance a little bit and throw in some extra materials next time you add to your compost.
Other useful things to note about your compost:
- Compost needs sufficient air and moisture to work properly. Without air flow and nitrogen rich materials, you’re looking at a stinky, moldy situation. And without moisture (carbon materials), nothing breaks down.
- It is suggested to roll your bin twice a week to mix up all those materials. This helps decomposition and provides some extra air flow.
- If you are worried about pests or scavengers, bury your scraps to help hide the fresh scents.
- And remember: Try and make it as small as possible to help it decompose faster.
Now that we have all of that background information, on to the experiment!
- Drill, or other tool to make hole
- Plastic storage container
- Activated charcoal
- Cheese cloth
- Compostable materials – I chose coffee grounds, egg shells, and dried leaves to start
In an effort to reduce the smell coming out of the drilled air holes as much as possible, I taped cheesecloth to the underside of the container, creating a pouch in which to pour activated charcoal. If you have never used activated charcoal, it is absolutely magical when it comes to filtering smells. Also, if you don’t have these materials on hand and don’t want to buy them, no need to worry, adding carbon material to your mix will greatly reduce any possible stench, so just throw in some extra shredded paper, straw, or dried leaves.
After the setup is complete, it is time to add all the goodies, remembering to break it down as much as possible. Crush those egg shells. Crumble those leaves. Shred that newspaper. Cut up acceptable food remains.
My LOVELY laundry room compost:
Note: This is a very small scale sample. I am referring to it as compost, however, it is closer to a mix of nutrients. Compost is typically done on a much larger scale, and has the opportunity to heat up. I am not sure how much heat will be created by a much smaller pile, but that is one of the things that I intend to find out.
Please let me know about your indoor or outdoor composting experience and stories! And I’d also love to hear about your own experiments with creating nutrients for your plants. Any suggestions, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated:)
Currently Reading: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill in honor of Middle Grade March. It is an enchanting story about magic, sorrow, and secrets, written in a way that is entertaining for both children and adults alike.