How To Compost On a Small Scale

Composting on a Small Scale

Spring flowers in a container garden fertilized with compost

We’ve talked about composting before, but compost is so vital to healthy plants and beautiful gardens that we are going to talk about it- again.

This time, however, we are going to talk about composting on a small scale.  Many of us in Galveston do not have a large yard, if any, so a large composting bin or pile will not work.  At my home on Winnie Street, there is no soil to dig in, it is all concrete.  So, I have container gardens and a container compost bin. So, if you find yourself in a small gardening situation or even an apartment, this method will work for you.

The average kitchen produces plenty of green matter for a compost pile.  Green matter is fresh vegetation that is high in nitrogen.  Fallen leaves and old newspaper or boxes provide plenty of brown matter.  If you are using paper or cardboard, the smaller you tear or shred it, the better.  The brown matter is dried vegetation that is high in carbon.

What I use for my container is a large plastic pot that housed an ornamental tree from the nursery.  When I first began the compost bin, I layered leaves 2-3 inches thick with kitchen scraps about 1 inch thick then topped with another layer of brown matter.  You want a lot more brown matter than green matter.  I wet this down and left it alone.  In a few days, I stirred it.  If it got dry, I watered it.  My pot does have a few holes in the bottom so that it drains.  Given time, the ingredients break down and look like black soil.

There are a lot of myths about compost.  If your compost smells, you are doing it wrong.  Add more dry brown matter to the pile to correct the smell.  Rodents are not attracted to a compost pile unless you are adding meat scraps or cooked food- which you shouldn’t do.

Regardless of the size of your garden, compost is essential. Feeding plants is crucial to their health, all soil can be depleted regardless of the type of gardening that you are doing. In a container, the soil can be depleted much faster than in a garden bed. So, adding compost is a great way to feed the soil in a container garden.

Composting also keeps garbage out of the landfills. By converting your kitchen scraps such as vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, and egg shells into black gold for your flowers and plants, you are helping the environment in so many ways.

There are many other ways of composting, including vermicomposting, but a simple bucket and some old leaves will get it going. You can also turn your compost into the best liquid fertilizer- compost tea.

As I have created gardens and grown all manner of plants for over a decade, people always ask how I get the great results.

COMPOST is the answer.

Here are some of the results:

Do not spread the compost on the weeds.”

William Shakespeare- Hamlet

Compost does make things grow, but thankfully weeds detest fertile soil. So, the more compost you use the more fertile your soil and the less

weeds you will have. Beautiful!

Here are some common kitchen items that make GREAT compost:

  • eggshells
  • vegetable trimmings
  • coffee grounds
  • old coffee
  • old tea
  • newspaper
  • paper towels
  • tea bags
  • old lettuce from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • any old veggies from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • banana peelings
  • paper egg cartons

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Holly K. Ross, where happily ever after is a way of life. Writer on Galveston Island
, ga

Roses, Herbs, and Compost

Man alive, the weather has just been gorgeous!  As I worked outside over the past few days, there were birds everywhere.  I am so glad to have a business that requires me to be outside.

It may only be February, but spring is really gaining momentum.  I am not the only one feeling it, a lot of calls and emails have started to come in inquiring about certain plants and compost piles.  According to the farmer’s almanac, the spring equinox will be on March 20th, the earliest start of spring in 116 years.  Spring is definitely coming early this year.

The compost pile that has been working all through the hot dry summer and this winter did not look like much on top.  I could still see whole leaves and hay on top, but once I shoved the shovel through the first layer, I felt that resistance give way.  Underneath the intact top layer was the gorgeous deep brown stuff my dreams are made of these days.  I haven’t decided if I will continue composting in this spot or if I will put in a flower bed there.  If I put in a bed, the ground is already prepared.

For now, the compost is helping the business grow.  Last Thursday, we picked up our first order of David Austin Roses.  Roses are my love and David Austin has done an amazing job of breeding roses for beautiful old world blooms and scent while achieving the repeat blooming of the modern rose and keeping the disease resistance strong.  I have had several of these roses in my garden for several years.  To be honest, they were not thriving like my earth-kind roses were in the same bed.  Then, Mark Chamblee spoke to our Master Gardening Class and said that David Austin Roses like a little afternoon shade in our very hot Texas summers.  So, I relocated the roses and WOW- they took off and thrived right on through this record breaking heat and drought.  Now, I am proud to add the David Austin roses to our product line-up for 2012.  Saturday, four of us- Jonathan, Sierra, Tony and I- potted up 100 roses in 3 gallon pots.  That was some work!  However, we had a good time talking and laughing.  Sierra can now prune a rose bush with the best of them.  Each pot received a mixture of planting medium and compost with a layer of compost on top as a mulch.

Not only did I pot roses on Saturday, but I also potted in 4in cups 75 tomato plants.  “June Pink” is an early heirloom variety that is supposed to rippen  up early so those of us who just can’t wait to eat fresh tomatoes don’t have to wait so long!  My numbers are nothing compared to a lot of growers, but I am doing what I know I can do and do well.  There are 4 varieties that we will offer and all of them are organic.  “June Pink” is first into the pots, but Cherokee Purple, Iliini Yellow, and Arkansas Traveler are sprouted and will soon be in their pots ready for a new home.  As tempting as the weather is, tomatoes won’t be ready to plant outside until the end of March. Tomatoes, Eggplants, and Peppers need the very warm/hot weather to thrive.

Herbs have kept me busy as well.  Herbs are second only to roses on my lists of loves.  However, since roses are considered to be herbs- I guess herbs are my first love!  We have flats and flats available and I am doing hanging baskets of herbs this year. 

Spring is no time to rest, but after such a wretched summer and a quiet winter I am ready to be busy.  Five out of six raised beds are ready to go.  So, I plan to have cool season veggies planted by the end of the week and that last bed will be cleaned out and ready, too.  From one 5X20 bed, my pig got 3 bushels of “organic greens”, my goodness that is a of clover and weeds!  Happy Spring, Y’all!