Do you need to add to compost every year?

garden soil adding compost

Question: How often do you add nutrients to garden soil? Do you need to add to compost every year? -Tammy H.

Answer: When you cultivate crops in your garden soil, the plants you grow slowly deplete the soil of essential nutrients that plants need to grow and thrive. Amending your garden beds by adding compost to the soil goes a long way towards replenishing the nutrients during last year’s gardening efforts.

Compost, as well as other soil amendments, like manure and fertilizer, should be added to soil each year between growing seasons. In the southern and southwestern US, the warm weather conditions allow year-round gardening. In these areas, soils should be amended with compost twice per year, prior to planting in the spring and fall.

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How can I compost without a yard?

green waste in compost bin

Question: How can I compost without a yard? I don’t have much space for a compost pile. What options should I consider? Can I add dead plants to the compost, or should I throw them out? I’m not really sure how to get started. -Tim H.

Answer: If you have a yard, a patio, or any kind of outdoor space, you can drill some holes in an old trash can and make your own outdoor composting bin and start turning your paper, lawn, and kitchen scraps into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that gardeners need every year. However, even if you don’t have any outdoor space to speak of which you can use for composting, you can still join in on the practice of home composting and start making your own money-saving compost while keeping your excess waste out of the landfills

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Can Composting Make You Sick?

compost ingredient tips

Question: Can composting make you sick? What should I avoid adding to my compost bin? Can I put raw eggs in my compost? -Heidi R.

Answer: Though any serious health issues that could arise from composting can be avoided by practicing a handful of simple, common sense measures to minimize risks, there are sometimes fungal spores present in compost that can present health problems.

For young children, the elderly, pets, and those with compromised immune systems, the consequences of breathing in certain fungal spores can be a serious health risk, and can even lead to death. A widely-covered news story from 2008 reveals that a man in the UK died from complications resulting from breathing in Aspergillus fungal spores from a leaf mulch pile.

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What Can I Use Compost For?

Question: I’m starting a compost bin this season. What can I use compost for? How about grass? Should I spread compost on my lawn? -Randy T.

Answer: The most common use for compost is as a soil additive in the garden or for container plants. Adding compost to your planting medium makes the soil richer by boosting the nutrient levels and also improves the texture to help the soil retain water. When you are preparing a garden bed before the season begins, you can spread one or two inches of compost over the surface of the soil. Then mix the compost with the soil below to a depth of six to 12 inches. If your plants are already growing in an area where you want to add compost, you can use the side dressing technique instead. To side dress an area, spread the compost over the ground, but leave a few inches of room around any plants that are growing there. You need to leave this space between the plants and the compost to prevent problems from arising in the plants as a result of the microorganisms in the compost. The best time to do side dressing is in late spring or early summer, when plants are growing strong and can use the nutrients right away.

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Can you compost these things?

Here are some recent composting questions we received that aren’t long enough for separate articles, so we combined them.

Can avocado skin be composted?

Avocado skin can be added to the compost, but because it is so tough, it will take ages to break down, so adding it is not recommended. Adding avocado skin will slow down the decomposition process, even if it’s broken down into tiny pieces before adding it to the mix. 

Can baked beans go in compost?

In an enclosed bin, baked beans should be fine to add to compost, as they are basically just beans in a tomato-based sauce. However, if the compost bin is not enclosed, the salt and other flavorings may attract unwanted animals or vermin. 

Can banana peels be composted?

Yes, banana peels can be composted and typically take around four weeks to break down. Speed up the process by cutting the peel into small pieces before adding it to the compost mix. 

Can compost be too old?

Composted organic matter does not go bad unless it is stored improperly. However, compost does continue to break down, losing volume and nutrients the longer it is in storage. Try to use your compost within one to three years for best results. Improperly stored compost will go bad. The best way to store compost is in a covered container that is not airtight and lets in some water.

Are nightcrawlers good for compost?

Yes, nightcrawlers and other types of earthworms are good for compost if you see some in your compost pile. They speed up the composting process and help break down organic waste. It is not necessary to add them though, and they’ll probably just crawl away. If the compost is in contact with the ground, they will find their own way in. Vermicomposting is a different concept, explained here.

Are orange peels bad for compost?

No, orange peels and any other citrus peels can be added to compost to bring in phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. Break your orange peels down to the smallest possible sizes before adding them into the mix, as large pieces of orange peel will take a long time to break down. The smaller you are able to make your peel pieces, the quicker they will break down and enrich your compost. Orange peels are rich in nitrogen and can help speed up microorganism activity when added to compost. 

Are plastic compost bins any good?

Yes, plastic compost bins are a good choice because they are sturdy, long-lasting, well-insulated, and easy to clean. Unlike wood, plastic composting equipment will last for years without rotting or wearing down. For a small space, plastic compost bins are perfect. Another advantage of plastic compost bins is that they are easy to move around.