Why We Compost

We compost for two reasons...First, to add vital nutrients to the soil. Second, to avoid filling our landfills with organic material.

Among other things, it shades roots from the sun, insulates from heat and cold, retains moisture, protects from damaging rain, encourages worms and microbial action near the surface, and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. In clay soil it helps break up the soil, and in sandy soil, it helps to hold in water and nutrients.

It also will save you money on your watering bill.

With all the choices in mulch available, its hard to know which is right for you. Below we compare 5 of the most common types and let you know how to use each one.

  1. Cotton Bur Compost - Similar to the mulch, its very rich in nutrients. You'll use the fine or medium grade for compost. Great for quickly establishing nutrients to in the soil and for acid loving plants.
  2. Living Earth Compost - Made from a variety of cost effective sources, this is a high quality all purpose mulch at a good value.
  3. Cow Manure - In expensive and high in nitrogen. Make sure you buy aged manure. Be carefull to not apply in too high a quantity. Better is mixed with the above two.
  4. Peat Moss - Generally not good alone. It holds toomuch water - but when dry, is very difficult to reabsorb water. Definately mix with the first two on the list. It has no nutrients
  5. Mushroom Compost - This is the spent growing medium for mushroom farms. It's very good and has been aged wonderfully. Rather expensive but a great compost.
Almost anything labeled "Compost, cow manure, Mushroom Compost, etc." can be made poorly. Many of your cheap brands are made up of mostly sand. Before you buy, make sure you can see a sample to make sure you're getting a high quality product.

Should you Compost?

Composting is much better than throwing away your organic matter into the landfill. But picking up all of your organic material, putting it in a pile and tending to it constantly to provide a small amount of compost material that will most likely not meet your demand is time consuming. So... 
We don't think you should make a compost pile... But you should compost where it lies. Use a mulching mower for grass clipping and fall leaves that fall on the lawn. No raking required. And wait til the leaves fall and just mulch over them in your beds. It's faster, easier, eliminates raking and solves a lot of garden problems with little to no effort.

So you never listen and want to make your own anyways. Or you don't have a lawn. Whatever.

A good compost pile is made of roughly 50% green plants and 50% brown plants. Green plants include: Green plants, weeds, lawn clippings, shrubs, vegetable food waste.  Brown plants include leaves, twigs, dead plants, etc. 

The purpose of green plants is nitrogen. so, if you're short of Green plants, you can add nitrogen (any fertilizer works). Believe it or not, you can even pee on the pile once in a while. Urine is chock full of nitrogen - and there's no better way to get little boys into gardening than to pee on a compost pile once week.If you're short of Brown plants - you just have to wait.

So how do you use it?

In initial plantings, compost is used to make a more organic soil. For bedding plants, you'll usually mix in a 2 cu. ft. bag over about 12 sq. ft. For Shrubs, you'll usually mix a 2 cu. ft. bag 6" - 8" deep over about 6 sq. ft cover image by Kirsty Hall