We live in an area by the river with really sandy soil, so we have to regularly buy good fertile black dirt to use in our garden and for planting trees. This can get expensive depending on how you buy it. For a 12 x 12 garden, if you want the soil 4 inches deep you are looking at spending a couple hundred dollars in bags of soil.
So why not make your own soil? Compost is a mixture of green and brown organic matter that decomposes over time which provides a slow release of good nutrients as well as improving aeration, increasing the water-holding capacity, and promoting good drainage for your Denver property.
Here is an excellent resource on using compost from Gary Antosh, who has over 30 years growing plants commercially: 7 Tips For Making And Using Compost In The Garden
What do you make your compost in? You can just make a pile of leaves, grass clippings, leftover fruits and vegetables, and sawdust anywhere, but most people like to contain it. This post from HGTV offers a container idea for making your own compost:
Composting Made Easy | Landscaping Ideas and Hardscape Design | HGTV
An old metal trash can is the perfect small space to make compost. You can buy all sorts of compost bins, but a slightly modified metal trash can is one of the best homemade compositors. To make one for your back yard, punch several holes in the bottom of a 20- or 30-gallon trash can with a hammer and a large nail. Flip the can over and set it on a few bricks so air can circulate underneath it.
Next, fill the can with about three inches of garden soil, followed by three inches of kitchen scraps, three inches of shredded newspaper, and finally three inches of leaves or grass clippings. Keep the lid on the can, and continue building more layers until the can is full. Within about three months, the compost will be cooked to perfection, all without turning or watering.
This video is an excellent explanation of how to start a basic compost pile. I love her idea for the area to contain the compost…very cheap and simple. We have a small tractor with a loader bucket, so having it wide enough to use the tractor to dump in materials and scoop them back out when they are ripe is part of my plan of attack:
So what is the perfect combination of green and brown matter? As mentioned in the above video, green materials provide nitrogen and iinclude grass clippings, food waste (no meat or dairy products), coffee grounds, and manure (from animals that aren’t meat eaters.) The brown category contributes carbon, with things like leaves, sawdust, cardboard, paper, and hay or straw.
In the next post, the balance of ingredients is suggested as two parts brown to one part green:
Home Composting Made Easy – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS
1. Balancing ingredients is optional. To help compost decompose rapidly, a balance of “two parts brown to one part green” is often preached as composting gospel, but in truth, keeping a balanced ratio is simply an option. (Dry materials, such as leaves, pine needles and dead plants, are usually considered “browns,” whereas wetter materials, such as grass clippings and kitchen waste, are considered “greens.”) It’s not that balancing browns and greens is wrong; it simply makes home composting more complicated than it needs to be. You can pile up all your organic material without worrying at all about greens and browns, and it will still mature into compost.
Read the original post here: Home Composting Made Easy – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS
Composting isn’t really an exact science. No matter what combination of ingredients you put into your pile, it will eventually decompose and turn into compost. I guarantee that anything with some hummus in it is better than our sandy soil for growing healthy plants.