Earth, earth, earth!
There is no secret. If you want striving veggie plants and a bountiful crop, investing in the earth you use is always the best way to go.
What are the benefits of using compost?
Beside the fact that reusing food scraps will dramatically reduce your organic waste footprint, compost has numerous great advantages:
Enriches your soil (yummy veggies!)
Helps retain moisture (more effective irrigation!)
Favors the elimination of plant diseases and pests.
Decreased need for chemical fertilizers.
Favors the production of beneficial fungi and bacteria.
Buying organic compost will give you a jump-start but composting at home is actually very easy! Composting does not have to be hard, messy or smelly if well-done. It's actually pretty straight forward and does not require much investment from your part.
How do I create compost?
1. Start with the correct container:
There are two types of compost bins: rotating or stationary. Depending on how quickly you need the compost, the size of your garden and how much plant matter you have at your disposal, you will chose one over the other. Both types require their contents to be turned regularly to combine the decaying materials and provide oxygen.
A stationary bin can be a simple metal circular bin or wooden crates assembled from a kit. It needs to be placed in a sunny location in order to create higher heat, speeding the decomposition process. Remember that an effective compost bin will retain moisture and heat for quicker results.
Another great option are compost tumblers. With their easy-to-rotate bin, good heat retention as well as frequent oxygen infusions, they enable compost to be created in a matter of weeks instead of months or years.
2. Get the ingredient mix right:
The Golden Rule: BROWN + GREEN + MOISTURE + HEAT.
Kitchen organic waste;
Avoid meat, fish or dairy for outdoor bins since they will most likely attract pests.
The reality is that most of us will use a simple container or bin. In that case, I recommend you to start heaping the components right on the ground, starting with the chunky ones (branches...etc). This will enable for favorable airflow. In order to create pockets of oxygen and keep a good moisture level, add some brown material each time you add green material.
If you want a jump-start on the decomposition process, you can find ready-to-use activators in the market that do not require to be mixed well. Just pour on top and let the process start.
3. Remember a few simple to-dos:
Creating compost is extremely easy, but a few simple steps will make sure you don't start having problems with odors and the decomposition occurs as efficiently and fast as possible.
Regularity: add material relatively frequently to make sure the bacteria have fresh food and the insulation needed.
Blending: Turn the pile every week or every couple of weeks for appropriate blending and an efficient decomposition process throughout your pile.
Moisture: your mix should be slightly damp but not too much. Too much dryness and your decomposition will slow down; too little and you will start experiencing odors and other problems.
Finished Compost: your final compost should smell like fresh earth and look like a dark, crumbly soil. Perfect for giving the nutrients to your growing veggie plants!
You can prevent some common mistakes by doing the following:
Composting needs critical mass to occur...so don't start too small.
If you live like me in Alajuela in Costa Rica, where the climate is super dry and arid, check your bin on a regular basis. Since there is an active process going on, your need to keep things moist (but not too much!)
Try a variety of ingredients! This will give for a better and more powerful compost!