Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Home and Garden

You don't have to be a scientist to create compost

The biology and chemistry of composting is pretty complicated, says master composter Linda Mizes, but you don't have to understand it completely to successfully create a compost pile.

Mizes, a master gardener in Contra Costa, Calif., shares these tips.

Simple recipe

A compost bin or pile needs four things:

• food

• water

• air

• warmth

The food consists of an equal mix of green and brown material, which feed the bacteria, fungi and other creatures. The BFFs, as Mizes call them, help decompose the materials and convert it to humus, or soil.

Green materials are high in nitrogen, and can include grass, kitchen scraps, manure and coffee grounds. Mizes also puts her weeds into her compost bins, as long as the weeds have not yet gone to seed.

Brown materials are high in carbon, and can include leaves, twigs and paper.

Egg shells are neither green nor brown, but they can add calcium to your mix and are okay to add to your pile.

Your compost materials should have the consistency of a damp sponge. Add water as needed.

Air also is essential for the decomposition to take place. Stirring your compost will help aerate it.

There are two kinds of composting — hot and cold — but a certain amount of warmth is required for both. Put your piles or bins in a sunny spot. Most bins are black to help absorb and maintain the heat in your pile.

Manage your pile

Chop your materials into smaller pieces to increase the surface area and facilitate decomposition. Many plants have a protective cover that resists decay, so cutting them into bits or shredding can break down that cover.

To minimize water and heat loss, pile your materials in a heap, or use a composting bin.

Be sure to place it near a water source and in an area that will be convenient for you to access.

Tend your compost by turning the materials to add air, distribute the moisture and to enhance decomposition.

Monitor the pile for moisture levels and check for surprises, Mizes says, such as mammals moving into the bins to build nests.

You can harvest your compost when about half of the materials have turned to humus. Return the materials not fully decomposed to the pile.

Running your finished compost through a sieve or screen can remove pieces that aren't quite fully composted.

The best way to do this is to pull all of the material out and sift it. Keep the humus and use the rest to start a new batch.

Troubleshooting

If your bin has a strong odor, you may have too much water or too much nitrogen. Try adding in more browns.

To stop rats or other creatures from burrowing into the bin, use a piece of chicken wire on the bottom.

Using a piece of plastic on top of your materials can help keep the moisture inside.

Comments
Timely Tendings: Beware of buying or gifting invasive plant species

Timely Tendings: Beware of buying or gifting invasive plant species

Beware of buying or gifting invasive plant speciesPlants make great gifts to give and receive. But .?.?. beware invasive species lurking in local garden centers or nurseries. Many invasive species are still commonly sold and if you plant them in your...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

I gave Amazon.com a key to go into my house and drop off packages when I’m not around. After two weeks, it turns out letting strangers in has been the least-troubling part of the experience.Once Amazon owned my door, I was the one locked into an all-...
Published: 12/08/17
Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Lights, ribbons, tinsel, flowers — how do you get that perfect look? We asked designer Ken Neddo of Classic Florals in St. Petersburg to help with this yearly decorating event.   * What do you see as the general trends in Christmas tree deco...
Published: 12/05/17
Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Get holiday plants: trees, poinsettias and cactiLiving Christmas trees are a fun, lasting way to celebrate the holiday season that can then be planted to provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Unfortunately a commonly sold plant for this is the Norfolk Isl...
Published: 12/01/17
Updated: 12/05/17
5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

Thinking about buying your first home? Before you can unlock the door to homeownership, you have to take some important first steps. From finding the perfect location to financing your purchase, shopping for your first home has challenges that go bey...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

We want your news!Hometown Hernando is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well done. Y...
Published: 11/29/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

The first of the 2018 seed catalogs will be arriving soon in the mail, signaling the start of another growing season. Savvy vegetable gardeners pore over the pages while choosing plants and drafting budgets. Planning ahead provides healthier returns ...
Published: 11/28/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Diggin’ Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

Diggin’ Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

If I had to choose just one garden tool to be shipwrecked with on an uninhabited island, it would be my Felco 2 pruners. They clip anything up to about a half-inch diameter — even thicker when I push it, which I do.Even my daughter marveled when I qu...
Published: 11/27/17
Updated: 11/29/17
Homes that make a good first impression have 5 things in common

Homes that make a good first impression have 5 things in common

It takes just 26 seconds for a guest to form an opinion of your home when they walk through the front door. What does your space say about you? While we try to resist the urge to judge, there’s no doubt that first impressions count.Whether you’re exp...
Published: 11/27/17
Updated: 11/28/17
What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

NOW IN THEATERS: COCO Disney-Pixar’s animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn’t as good ...
Updated one month ago