First off, what is compost?
Compost is decomposed organic matter. The process of composting involves creating a moist, warm, oxygenated environment for microorganisms to thrive and hasten the decomposition process, providing nutrient rich plant food. In layman's terms, compost is plant food that all plants need. Compost, like plant vitamins, feeds plants all the nutrients they lose from watering. To grow healthy plants you need to give them COMPOST!
Why is composting important?
Compost is something all plants need when living outside of their natural environment. Nature organically provides plants with nutrients through debris created from fallen leaves, dead plants and animals. Within our yards and homes we must create those conditions through compost. Compost is not only important for keeping your plants alive, it's important for the planet too! Recycled waste that would end up in a landfill can be used to enrich your plants at home. You can create a smaller footprint by using compost! Save the planet and feed your plant babes! It’s truly a win-win!
What should I compost?
According to the USDA, “Anything that was once alive will naturally decompose. However, some organic wastes should not be composted at home.”
- DO compost these items: grass clippings, leaves, plant stalks, hedge trimmings, old potting soil, twigs, annual weeds without seed heads, vegetable scraps, coffee filters, and tea bags.
- Do NOT compost these items: diseased plants, weeds with seed heads, invasive weeds, pet feces, dead animals, meat or fish parts, dairy products, grease, cooking oil, or oily foods.
Understanding the Nutrients in Compost
Plants need these six key nutrients: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. We all know the first three from learning about the plant life cycle in school, but the last three may be new to you. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are obtained from the plant's soil. Knowing the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) values of your soil or compost can help ensure you’re providing your plants or garden with the nutrients (vitamins) they may be lacking. Everything you put into your compost has an NPK value, and every bulk-compost has an NPK. These values may seem confusing or intimidating, but we are here to help! Let's break them down:
- Nitrogen (N) is needed for leaf growth and is responsible for making plants greener. Plants that are almost all leaves need a lot of nitrogen. The higher the number, the more nitrogen the fertilizer provides. Higher numbered fertilizers are best used for outdoors plants such as lawns.
- Phosphorus (P) promotes root development, which helps to anchor and strengthen plants. It also increases bloom and fruit production.
- Potassium (K), also known as potash, helps the plant fight off diseases and keeps it vigorous, enabling it to withstand extreme temperatures and ward off disease. Plants deficient in potash may display stunted leaves and fruit and be extra sensitive to drought. Because most soils already contain potassium, the third number in the fertilizer ratio tends to be the smallest.
**Plants in the home will want a smaller NPK ratio than outdoor plants, while tropical plants like higher levels of nitrogen.**
Here’s what the Wild Hare ladies have used to achieve great results at home:
Our resident plant lady Kate loves to use eggshells and coffee grounds to nourish her houseplants.
- Coffee grounds: I love using coffee grounds as an easy plant food! It’s important to only use coffee grounds that have already been used for coffee making, as they’ll be less acidic and won’t leach acidity into your soil. Also, be sure the grounds dry out completely before you use them in your planters! And be cautious about the possibility of too-wet soil causing them to mold.
- Kate also loves to make a coffee-ground ‘tea’. Add 2 cups of used coffee grounds to a 5-gallon bucket of water, let the tea steep for a few hours or overnight. Use as a liquid fertilizer for garden and indoor container plants. Another tip, spray this tea directly on the leaves and stems of your plants.
- Egg shells: An egg shell “tea” is also a great plant food option! Save your used eggshells and thoroughly rinse them. Then, boil them in a pot of water, strain the shells out of it, and when it cools, use the leftover solution as your plant food. You can also save the thoroughly-rinsed shells, and crush them into a powder using a food processor, and sprinkle this on top of your soil. Eggshells are primarily made of calcium carbonate, and once steeped into ‘tea’, have small amounts of calcium, potassium, and very trace amounts of phosphorus, magnesium and sodium!
Our owner Summer likes to use compost tea!
- Compost tea is the best option for plants in pots such as indoor plants, but not limited to outdoor potted plants. Compost tea can be made by adding compost to a burlap or cheesecloth, and suspending it or agitating it in water until it develops a “tea” color. Compost in general can be added to potting mixture only as ¼” of the total soil.
- Rice water (the water from rinsing your rice) is alway a great choice as it has phosphorus, calcium and potassium. These levels are much lower than most compost and can be used more regularly.
If you are interested in creating your own outdoor compost, The Rodale Book of Composting has great step-by-step guides!
Please send us your compost recipes/photos! Thank you for reading & happy composting!