Make Your Own Garden Fertilizer

      Want free fertilizer? Don't know what to do with fall leaves and hedge clippings? No worries: Metro's Natural Gardening Expert Carl Grimm showed us how to make compost at home, and how it can reduce garbage, prevent storm water pollution, all while helping plants grow without toxic chemicals.

      First of all, what is compost and why's it so great?
      Compost is what's left when plant parts and animal wastes decompose. It looks like soil and typically smells sweet and earthy. Whether used as a soil conditioner, fertilizer or mulch, compost helps plants grow without toxic chemicals. It also helps the soil absorb storm water preventing polluted runoff into our local rivers and streams. Finally, it makes your soil a carbon sink, helping you address global climate change right in your own backyard.

      What can you compost in a home compost bin?
      Do compost: Fruit and vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, leaves, chopped prunings, grass clippings, herbivore manures (i.e. horse, cow, rabbit, etc.), sawdust and straw, plus most weeds, especially young ones.
      Don't compost: Meat, dairy, fish, bones, grease, oil, nuts, beans, grains, bread, pet waste, diseased plants, nor weeds that have gone to seed or that spread from root runners.
      Alternatively, if you live in the City of Portland: you can put all your food scraps into your green roll cart for curbside collection (including meat, dairy and plate scrapings).

      What's the no-fuss way to make compost?
      Before you start, find yourself a rodent resistant compost bin with a lid, floor and no holes or gaps larger than 1/4 inch wide - especially if you'll be adding fruit and vegetable trimmings. Metro sells two bins at MetroPaint on Swan Island for under $60. Once you have a bin, just follow the basic 1-2-3:
      1. Chop materials as you add them - ideally six inches or smaller.
      2. Mix "browns" and "greens" (dry woody stuff with moist green stuff, and mix things as you go.)
      3. Maintain moisture damp as a wrung out sponge.
      Then you can harvest your compost when it looks like soil, which is usually after six months or so. Look for the finished compost at the bottom of you pile or bin.

      Some like it hot
      You can get your compost to heat up to steaming temperatures so it kills some weed seeds and speeds the process - but you'll have to make a big pile all at once, make sure you follow the 1-2-3 carefully and turn it often. But there's no need to feel inadequate if your pile's not steaming! Hot is good, but no-fuss is fine.

      To learn more about home composting, call Metro Recycling Information at 234-3000. Learn more online here. For Portland Composts! information, click here.