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Tips to start composting for your garden

Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:00am

(StatePoint) It doesn't matter if you're a gardening novice trying to supplement your dinner table with some home-grown veggies or an entrepreneur that earns a living off the land, composting is a simple way to go green and help save the environment.

You don't have to be an environmentalist to compost, either. Compost, which is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled and used for fertilizing soil, is great for your garden and will help reduce landfill waste. In addition, composting in your home garden will help you save money.

"Using compost means your garden will be more cost-effective because you will have to spend less on fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides for a given harvest of any crop," says Brett L. Markham, author of "The Mini Farming Guide to Composting," the latest in his Mini Farming book series.

Across the country people are embracing the concept of self-sufficiency and preparedness, "mini farming" anywhere, from rooftop urban gardens to suburban backyards to larger land plots. Growing food is easier than ever and composting is a huge part of this movement.

Markham, who also has written the bestselling "Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre" as well as mini farming guides to fermenting and vegetable gardening, offers these gardening tips to get started on composting:

o Composting is a natural form of recycling, so use food waste, grass clippings, coffee grounds and even paper as compost. Just be sure to shred the paper first to speed up the process.

o Start your compost pile in a convenient spot, and make sure it is semi-shaded and well-drained.

o Add bulking agents such as wood chips to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials, allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process. Add leaves, straw, or hay along with grass clippings or green manures for plenty of bulk.

Each layer should be no more than two inches so that the grass clippings or leaves don't get matted down to form a layer impermeable to air.

o Keep the compost moist. Either water it yourself or let rain take care of it. The compost should be moist, but not soaked.

o Cover the compost pile to help retain moisture and heat. This will also help prevent the compost from being over-watered by the rain.

o Turn the compost pile with a shovel or a fork to aerate the pile. It is important to water the pile as you turn it as well. Turning the pile adds oxygen to the compost which is necessary to get the most out of your pile.

o Once you add the compost to your garden, you'll be ready to start planting in two to five weeks!

You can learn more about composting, mini farming, and self-sufficiency at www.MarkhamFarm.com/mainsite.

Composting is the first easy step to helping the environment while growing your own food. So make the most out of your garden, and start digging!

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