Composting Options for Your Garden

The soil ecosystem is made up of fungi, microscopic bacteria earthworms, crickets, and many other life forms. Studies have proven that compost enhances this complex food web by preventing disease and improving the nutrition and flavor of vegetables and fruits; while assisting in moisture retention.

Compost maximizes your garden’s ability to nurture healthy plants while minimizing the amount of trash you throw away. There are many great composting options on the market.

Organic fruit and vegetable garden background
Fruits and vegetables growing in compost including carrots, mushrooms, potatoes and lettuce


What is the Difference Between Fertilizer & Compost Options?

There is a simple distinction between compost and fertilizer.

Fertilizer provides the nutrition for plants, while composting options provide nutrition and sustenance for the soil.

Although fertilizer contributes to the soil’s overall nutrition supply, it is intended for the needs of the plants.
Compost assists fertilizers by absorbing the nutrients until they are needed by plants. Fertilizer works without compost, but compost will enhance the soil’s ability to maximize the fertilizer benefits. Compost also infuses the soil with other nutrients, such as boron.

Even those who compost at home often need to buy bagged compost in bulk at certain times of the year, such as when trying to establish new plants in the spring. You can purchase organic compost at your local landscape supply company; compost options typically also recommend the purchase of manure or earthworm casting to supplement the product.

What are Earthworm Castings? Worm castings are essentially earthworm waste. As the critters eat through compost, their waste provides an excellent soil enricher.(Buy Earthworm Castings here.)

Homemade Composting Options

Many Sarasota and Yampa homeowners include homemade compost in their gardens and landscaping beds. Homemade compost not only recycles waste, but it is a rich soil addition for healthy plants, fruit trees, vegetable gardens and flower beds. You may be surprised at all of the various items you can safely and effectively compost.

There are two basic categories for composting: greens, and browns.

Greens: “Greens” are nitrogen-rich, add abundant moisture and break down rapidly, infusing compost with the heat it needs. Although you may think greens refers to the color, but in reality the term refers to any organic matter which provides nitrogen. There include things like

Fruit and vegetable peels/ citrus or melon rinds
Coffee grounds/ tea leaves/ paper tea bags
Rotting vegetables
Houseplant trimming/ weeds/ grass clippings/ leaves
Dead flowers and plants (not diseased)
Cooked plain rice/ pasta/ stale bread
Corn husks/ corn cobs/ broccoli stalks
Old spices which have lost their flavor

Browns: “Browns” are carbon-rich and add aeration to the compost heap. Browns break down fairly slowly, so it is recommended that these items are cut up into small pieces.

Shredded newspaper / office or school papers / non-glossy junk mail
Plain corrugated cardboard boxes
Bedding from hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits /sawdust
Chopped up twigs/ pinecones /wood chips
Nutshells (not walnut shells)
Used napkins/toilet paper, paper towel, or wrapping paper tubes
Used paper coffee filters / paper egg cartons /brown paper bags

Timing of Compost Application

Whether you use bagged compost or make your own, there are some basic rules to follow for the best results for your plants. Compost is typically applied in the spring and fall when the conditions are optimal for the microbes. Two weeks before you plant, you can add compost to the soil to ensure complete integration. You can fill in as needed over the summer.

For all the compost, fertilizer and fillers you need to make your garden the best in the neighborhood this season, stop by one of Big Earth Landscape Supply‘s 4 area locations. We are here to help, give advice, and provide quality products for all gardeners, from novice to expert.