Compost fertilizer is a product that provides helpful nutrients to soil, plants, flowers and vegetables. This fertilizer is generally formed through the controlled decomposition of organic material such as plants, fruits, and vegetables. While all organic material eventually decomposes, composting speeds up the process and helps forms a nutrient-rich soil.
Compost fertilizer helps soil retain water, promotes the healthy development of root systems in plants, and provides an ecologically and environmentally friendly means of disposing of food waste and lawn clippings. It has been estimated that food and lawn waste account for approximately 30% of all waste in landfills. Converting waste to compost fertilizer helps to free up valuable and limited space in landfills.
Compost is generally made by collecting organic waste and material in a container, often called a compostbin. The compost fertilizer is most effective when there is a proper balance between green ingredients, such as green clippings, manure, vegetable and fruit waste and brown waste such as wood, dried leaves, sawdust, straw and paper. In the compost mix green components provide nitrogen, while the brown ingredients provide carbon.
Once the ingredients are combined in the compost bin, water is added and the ingredients are mixed together. At this point in the process, compost activator is often added, which is a liquid high in nitrogen, to speed up the decomposition process. When the compost pile is formed, microbes in the mix start to multiply and break down the organic components of the material, causing the compost pile to heat up.
When properly maintained, compost fertilizer should be ready for use in approximately two to four weeks. The completed compost should have a dark brown color and smell earthy and musty like fresh soil. If the pile has a bad smell like garbage, it is more than likely not ready and may need additional material added to it to correct the balance of the overall mixture.
Compost fertilizer has several different applications. It is often combined with existing soil, which allows the nutrients in the compost to slowly release into the soil. It can be used very similarly to mulch and applied around flowers and plants to reduce the growth of weeds and retain water around the plants. Compost fertilizer may also be used as part of a potting soil mix.
Compostcan also be used to create what is known as composttea.Composttea is a liquid formed by steeping compostin water. The steeping process produces a liquid rich with the nutrients found in compost. Composttea is typically applied to the soil directly or sprayed on plants. Many believe that the application of composttea may increase the amount of nutrients that plants are able to absorb from the soil.
Fertilizers, compost, and mulch help enrich the soil, giving your plants, flowers, trees, and vegetables the nutrients needed to grow. To find out how to properly care for your plants and garden, it is important that you get the right information. By using this section of DoItYourself.com you will find all the information you need right at your fingertips.
Benefits of using compost as an organic fertilizer and mulch:
- Making compost is cheap or free.
- Compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration.
- As a mulch, compost helps the soil retain water.
- Compost is an organic fertilizer that improves soil and plants.
- Compost stimulates healthy root development.
- A compost pile is an excellent means of disposing of organic debris, leaves, food wastes, grass clippings, etc.
- Organic compost improves the environment.
- Organic fertilizer increases vegetable garden yield.
Make Compost in a Compost Pile Using Two Methods: Cold or Hot
Cold Organic Fertilizer Method or Cold Compost Method Using a Compost Pile
- The easiest way to make compost to use as organic fertilizer and a type of mulch is to start a compost pile in your yard (or in a compost bin). Into your compost pile, throw grass clippings, leaves, and weeds. Wait 6-24 months for it to break down on its own. The compost on the bottom of the pile will break down first. If you turn the compost pile occasionally, it will speed up the process of earthworms, insects and microorganisms breaking down the organic materials. Wood decomposes slower, so leave it out if you want to speed things up.
Hot Organic Fertilizer/Compost Method Using a Compost Pile
- Without ManureTo hold heat, the compost pile must have "compost critical mass" (27 cubic feet). Begin by mixing in one part green organic matter with two parts brown organic matter. Bury vegetable, fruit and food scraps in the center. Keep adding your mixture of organic matter as the weeks go by, continuously building your compost pile until it is five feet wide at the bottom and three feet wide at the top. The center internal temperature should reach 120 to 150 degrees F. Turn the compost pile weekly. It should be ready to use in six weeks to two months.
- With ManureIn a four by four square, place straw on the ground. For your second layer, add kitchen scraps, manure, or plants. For your third layer, add leaves (if you shred them, they'll break down faster). Next, layer straw. Then repeat your layers. Put manure and other compost at the top. Finish with a layer of straw. In summer, you may need to water the pile to keep it moist.
Tips & Warnings
- To improve the breakdown of your compost, add 2 dozen night crawlers. The worms will feed on the compost and release their waste back into the pile, adding to its value.
- Never use meat when making compost fertilizer.
- Avoid using pet waste.
- Avoid the use of fruit or seed-bearing plants. They could re-grow in your soil.
- Do not use ingredients that have been treated with chemicals.
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