Compost Benefits Flowers and Vegetables

April 9th and its raining mixed with snow.  Good day to sit down and write about composting.  I’m an avid composter and have been for years.  Compost is nature’s fertilizer that enriches your garden soil and makes it easier to till.  The rotted organic matter made from decomposed plant material provides a wide range of nutrients for plants and adds beneficial microbes to the soil.  Earthworms love it too!

As compost bins go, they are usually not a thing of beauty.  Mine are tucked in the back corner of my property behind our small barn.  I built mine out of free pallets with metal stakes and trees as corner posts.  I simply wire them together.  It consists of 4 bins.  

From right to left, the one on the right (#1) is my finished bin and the middle two (#2 & #3) are working bins.  The bin on the left (#4) is to hold “Browns” – leaves, etc..  These “Browns” will be layered between “Green” debris.  “Browns” and “Greens” will be explained later. When building your own bins whether it consists of one or more, make sure you allow enough room for a pile at least 3 feet long, wide, and tall, the size necessary to generate sufficient heat to work your compost.

Compost is made up of matter consist of Carbon which is the “Brown” dead stuff (#4 bin) and Nitrogen which is the “Green” stuff.  By chopping or shredding these materials before adding them to the compost pile it will aid in faster decomposition. If possible, use one part “Brown” for every two parts of “Green”.  That will give the decomposers a balanced diet with enough energy and nutrients to eat through everything you compost.

Carbon-rich “browns” tend to be dry, woody materials such as: 

  • Dried leaves, Not Black Walnut
  • Untreated sawdust and wood chips
  • Shredded black and white newspaper and junk mail
  • Egg Cartons – Not Styrofoam cartons
  • Cardboard, cut up in small pieces
  • Dead, dried out plants (Not diseased or seed bearing
  • Straw
  • Peanut shells (Not Black Walnut husks, shells or leaves)

Nitrogen-rich “greens” are usually colorful (think fruits and veggies) and usually a little moist. Here are few examples:

  • Chopped fruit and vegetables kitchen scraps
  • Coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Green garden cuttings and pulled young weeds
  • Fresh leaves and flowers
  • Grass clippings
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Farm related animal manures – not dog or cat!

Bin #2 holds my 2020 finished compost.  I’ve pitched half of it over into the finished bin (#1).  This compost was started in the spring if 2018. My process takes 2 years for a finished product.  If I had access to farm manures it may finish sooner and would be a much richer compost.  Last year, I pitched this compost over maybe 2 or 3 times during the summer.  Pitching it over mixes it up and also gaves me a chance to add more brown’s (#4 bin) when needed.  I’m now pitching it from this bin …. (#2 bin)….

…. to this bin (#1 bin). 

There are a few leaves that have not decomposed but that’s OK.  They will mix in with the soil and decompose eventually. 

Finally, bin #2 is empty.  It took me about an hour to pitch it over.  It becomes hard packed toward the bottom of the bin.  I’m not as young as I used to be so it takes longer these days. Now I can use this bin #2 to receive next year’s compost.

Now bin #1 is full of finished compost to use this spring.   I mix the finished compost, half and half, with top soil that I purchase either in bulk or bagged.  I do this because I have more flowerbeds than I have compost so I need to stretch it as far as I can.  I also need to build up the depth of the soil in several of my beds.

I use a farmer’s 6 tine manure fork for pitching my compost.  I also find this fork a very handy tool to have around the garden.  When cleaning up the yard by raking up the small fallen branches, pine cones, grass clippings, leaves, etc., I use this fork to pitch it all into my wagon.  A very helpful garden tool.

Now that Bin #2 is empty, I moved a pallet over to cover the front opening and wired it shut. Now it is ready to be filled up with next year’s compost from bin #3. First a piece of advice …..

Previously, I wrote about what you should use to make up your compost, now whatever you do, DO NOT ADD these items in your compost bins.

  • Fish and meat scraps or bones
  • Breads, cakes and other baked goods
  • Cooking oil or fat drippings
  • Milk products such as cheese, butter, etc.
  • Sawdust from treated wood
  • Black walnuts, hulls and/or leaves. These contain juglone, a natural aromatic compound toxic to some plants
  • Plants that have gone to seed. The seeds will end up in your compost and germinate in your garden
  • Coal fire ash
  • Synthetic fertilizer. It kills microorganism in your compost
  • Human, dog and cat feces

Now back to work.  Bin #3 of compost was put together during the growing season last year, plus all the kitchen and scraps that I added over the winter.

I’ve also added trimmed flowers and leaves from my greenhouse throughout the winter.  It is now ready to be pitched over into bin #2.  This will be next year’s finished compost.

In the process of pitching this over I have layered it with a bag of shredded junk mail, another thick layer of compost, another bag of shredded junk mail, then more compost.  Junk mail makes great compost.  Don’t send it to the landfill!


Bin #3 is empty, ready for this year’s garden waste.

My #4 bin is already partially full with leaves that I have raked out of my flower beds this spring.  These leaves will be layered in between green weeds, grass clippings and other items that I listed above.

Composting is easy once you get your bins built and your system down.  Your compost is also wonderful as mulch around rose bushes, rhubarb, berries, perennials, etc.

There you have it.  Composting in an easy to follow process.  It does take some work, but as I always say, work never hurts anyone.  It is wonderful exercise!

Keep your eyes on the horizon,  Grandma

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