12 Tips for Successful Spring Composting
As the melting snow makes way for spring's budding trees and plants, it's time to start planning your vegetable garden and flower beds. Adding compost to your garden will help nourish your plants so they can flourish. Whether you're new to composting or have composted for years, here are 12 tips to keep in mind for spring composting.
Location, Location, Location
When choosing a location for your compost bin, look for a spot in the yard that is not in the full sun or underneath or near large trees. Also, avoid putting your compost bin near a wood shed or a fence, since you want good air circulation to encourage decomposition.
Collect the Right Scraps
Collect everything from vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds, shredded paper towels and eggshells. Keep a covered container in your kitchen to help collect these scraps. The cover will help cut down on odors. When the container is full (or if it starts to smell or attract flies) empty it into your outdoor compost bin.
Worms Can Help
Known as vermicomposting, worms love to eat kitchen waste and will help turn your scraps into a rich compost. Vermicomposting is a great way to keep your compost going year-round so it’s ready for spring gardening. Vermicomposting can be done in DIY compost bins and in plastic storage container bins.
Compost Too Wet?
If you find your compost is too wet, add some dry material and cover it. Use “brown” materials such as strips of newspaper and dry grass clippings or straw to help absorb the moisture. You can also add dried leaves to help cut down on moisture.
Compost Too Dry?
Add green material if your compost is too dry. Fruit and vegetable scraps and green grass clippings will help add moisture to your compost because they contain nitrogen. Just be sure not to add weeds, as they can reappear once the compost is added to the garden.
Consider a Tumbler
A barrel tumbler will convert waste to compost much faster than stationary bins since it allows you to churn to aerate what’s inside. You can build your own compost barrel tumbler in just one day.
Protect Against Animals
There’s a good chance you have some pesky animals near your home, whether they’re squirrels, mice and rats or raccoons. You can limit animal visits to your compost by turning it frequently and keeping a good green to brown ratio (wet material to dry material). Also, make sure to keep meat and any leftovers with oil and dairy out of your compost bin.
Keep Insects Under Control
You will have some bugs in your compost pile, but all those scraps can become a breeding ground for unwanted insects. Some flies and beetles are common, but if bugs get out of hand, increase brown material and try turning the compost more frequently. You can also bury new food waste under the compost to discourage bugs.
The Smell Test
Your compost should smell “earthy,” not foul. While the point of composting is to generate good bacteria to help your plants and flowers, if your compost smells bad it could mean you’re growing the wrong kind of bacteria. If your compost produces a foul smell, try increasing brown matter and turning it more frequently. Also, make sure you aren’t adding meats, fats or dairy.
Is There Enough Heat?
Keeping enough heat in your compost can be a problem when it comes to winter and early spring composting. If the material isn’t breaking down in your compost bin, it may not have enough heat. Try adding more moisture and turning it more often. You can also use a tarp to cover the compost and attract heat, just make sure the pile doesn’t surpass a temperature of about 170 degrees, as that’s when the heat can start to kill off beneficial microorganisms.
Prepare for Planting
Finished compost should be dark in color and will be crumbly, like soil. If you started your seeds indoors this winter, apply a finished layer of compost to your garden before planting.
Mix With Topsoil
After planting this spring, mix some topsoil with finished compost to top-dress your vegetable garden and flower beds. When used this way, the composting material will supply nutrients to the plant roots, while also acting as a mulch to protect soil from heavy rains and extreme temperatures.