Today, more and more people are growing vegetables at home, be it in their backyards, gardens, or balconies. Not only is growing your vegetables very easy, but it is healthier, not to mention an economical choice too.
Often, store-bought vegetables are treated with pesticides and chemicals, which make them harmful to health, and organic produce, although a healthier option, comes with a hefty price tag.
So, if you’re planning to start your vegetable garden, there are a few things you need to get a good and healthy crop. And, the most important thing is high-quality organic compost.
What Is Compost?
Compost, which is not to be confused with fertilizer, nourishes the soil in which your plants grow. It is made up of decomposed organic materials such as kitchen scraps, and remnants of plants and leaves.
Compost mainly contains all the nutrients, both major, as well as minor, that improves the soil structure and helps the plants to grow and thrive. Compost comprises mainly 4 elements, i.e., organic matter, oxygen, moisture, and bacteria.
There’s nothing such as adding too much compost to your vegetable garden. All the compost you add will help to boost your crop yield.
In fact, composting is the most critical part of vegetable gardening, and finding the best organic compost for a vegetable garden can be a huge challenge.
You need to take a lot of care when choosing the best compost for organic vegetable gardens for them to thrive and be fruitful. You can either buy readymade compost or make your own.
Buying compost is probably the easiest and fastest way for beginner gardeners to start their vegetable garden. You can buy the specific type of compost you want, containing specific nutrients and minerals that will help veggies to grow better.
Making your own compost is not very difficult, but it takes time, effort, and commitment.
You can easily make compost from organic materials around your home, but it can take up to 6 months or more for the compost to be ready before it can be used to grow vegetables.
Benefits of Adding Compost to Your Vegetable Garden
For a thriving vegetable garden, the most important thing required is nutrient-rich soil. And, if the soil in your garden is less than adequate, then adding compost to the soil is the best way to enrich the soil.
Here are some of the advantages of adding compost to your vegetable garden:
- Improves Drainage and Soil Structure: Soil that is enriched with organic matter has more air pockets that allow water, as well as nutrients, to penetrate easily and it also enhances the drainage of the soil.
- Enhances Nutrient Levels: Compost contains beneficial microbes and nutrients that help to revitalize and strengthen the soil, which in turn, helps the plants to be resilient, strong, and healthy.
- Improves Water Retention: Soil that is enriched with compost holds water better and for a longer time, which means that you spend less time watering the plants.
- Balances the pH of the Soil: Compost helps to raise the pH of acidic soils while reducing the pH levels in alkaline soils naturally.
- Extends the Growing Season: Compost-enriched soil helps to promote the structure of the soil and makes it healthy so that it can retain heat for a longer time. This, in turn, enables you to plant earlier, prolong the growing season and ensure that the harvesting lasts much longer.
What Is the Best Compost for Organic Vegetable Gardens?
The best compost for organic vegetable gardens is compost that is made from multiple sources. A compost that contains several materials will include a variety of micronutrients that are beneficial and support the growth of plants.
Ideally, the best organic compost for vegetable gardens must contain plenty of organic matter, including vegetable and fruit waste, leaves, plant material, grass cuttings, peat moss, bark, coffee grounds, eggshells, etc.
The compost should have a balanced pH and must be free from pathogens and diseases.
The best compost for vegetables is aged mature compost, which is blackish-brown in color and has a crumbly, moist, and even texture.
The important thing to remember is never to use immature or unfinished compost for your vegetable plants.
This is because the compost has not had sufficient time to heat up or cure and may contain harmful pathogens and bacteria, which may transfer to the plants.
Vegetable gardens require high qualities of nutrients and so the compost you use should be rich in their essential nutrients.
Opt for a specific compost with vital nutrients instead of a general gardening mix. You can use store-bought compost that has a mix of organic matter and manure for your vegetable garden, but the manure must be heavily broken down.
Making your own compost from organic matter is a great option.
How to Make the Best Organic Compost for Vegetable Garden?
There are 2 methods of making organic compost for your vegetable garden: aerobic composting and anaerobic composting.
In this method, you can simply pile up all the kitchen and garden waste and collect it in a large pile or you can build the compost pile by adding one layer at a time i.e., alternating green waste i.e., leafy nitrogen-rich materials and brown waste i.e., woody and carbon-rich materials.
Ideally, each layer should be around 6 inches in depth and the compost pile must be around 3-4 feet wide and high. The organic material can be piled up or you can place it in a box.
Sprinkle some water on the plie and cover it with a heavy-duty plastic sheet or tarp and leave it to decompose. Depending on the weather conditions, the organic matter will occur in 9-12 months. You can accelerate the decomposition by using solar heat.
This process uses air to accelerate the composting process. In this method too, the green and brown waste must be collected and layered as described above. The only difference is that in aerobic composting, you need to turn the compost occasionally.
Turning the waste allows fresh oxygen to be introduced into the pile, which in turn, helps to reactivate the composting process as the oxygen provides the bacteria more energy to decompose the materials.
Ideally, for optimal decomposition, the temperature at the center of the compost pile must be maintained between 140°F and 158°F. If the temperature falls, then you must turn the pile as frequently as once a week.
Turn the compost pile by pushing the materials from the outside to the center or you can just break the pile and build it layer upon layer.
What Should or Shouldn’t Be Composted?
Some of the best materials for organic composting include vegetable and fruit scraps, rice husks, coffee grounds, eggshells, plant cuttings, grass clippings, dry leaves, straw, wood chippings, and shredded cardboard or newspaper.
If you’re using wood chippings, make sure that these are not from treated wood because this can end up adding harmful chemicals to the compost, which can get into your vegetables.
Avoid using bones, cooking fat, grease, or dairy products in the compost pile as these materials take a very long time to decompose and also attract insects and pests.
Don’t add any non-biodegradable materials, treated plants, or seeded weeds to the compost pile. Ensure that the compost pile is kept moist at all times and don’t let it dry out.
Try to maintain 50% green materials in the pile such as fruit and veggie scraps, grass, and plant cuttings. The other 50% of the materials should be brown such as dried leaves, twigs, newspapers, cardboard, and egg boxes.
If the compost becomes too dry, then add more green materials to it and if it becomes too wet and mushy, add more brown materials.
Growing a vegetable garden can be exciting. And, a thriving garden requires good organic compost to provide the nutrients it needs to produce healthy and nutritious vegetables.
You can either buy compost from any garden store or you can make your nutrient-rich compost. Our guide can help you to get your gardening project started and soon you will have a thriving vegetable garden that you’re proud of.