Composting is the organic method of turning materials like leaves, grass clippings, manure, and kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich substance known as compost. Making compost in your backyard is simple, cost-effective, and eco-friendly. By using the right materials and caring for it adequately, you can produce a high-quality compost abundant with beneficial microbes and essential plant nutrients, as outlined by soil expert Dr. Elaine Ingham. In this article, I’m going to explain how to make bio complete compost at home according to Dr. Elaine Ingham’s method.
The Benefits of Bio Complete Compost
Dr. Ingham’s bio complete compost provides ideal nutrition and living conditions for plants to thrive. Some key benefits include.
Improved Plant Growth and Health: The diverse microbes in bio complete compost convert nutrients into optimal plant-available forms. The microbes also produce compounds that stimulate plant growth and help suppress disease. Plants grown in bio complete compost have abundant root systems and vigorous foliage.
Drought Resistance: Compost holds several times its weight in water, reducing watering needs. The humus in finished compost soaks up rain and irrigation like a sponge, providing a reservoir for plant roots. Healthy compost-enriched soil has good aggregation and structure for moisture retention. The diverse biology promotes deeper rooting plants better able to withstand dry periods.
Less Fertilizer Required: Compost contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients which are slowly released through microbial activity. The nutrients are held in organic forms less prone to leaching. By meeting much of the plants’ nutritional needs, bio complete compost reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Suppression of Plant Diseases: The wide diversity of beneficial microbes crowd out and antagonize plant pathogens when you use bio complete compost to nurture your plants. They occupy disease entry points and compete for nutrients. Some microbes produce antibiotics and enzymes that inhibit pathogens. Except for that, the balanced nutrition provided by compost strengthens plant immune systems.
Recycles Waste: Making compost at home provides a free way to recycle yard and food waste rather than sending them to landfills. Bio complete compost can process many types of household waste in moderate amounts. It’s an eco-friendly solution.
Carbon Sequestration: Composting effectively locks up carbon in a stable form. Carbon is removed from the air as plants grow via photosynthesis. Composting those plants into humus maintains the carbon in a slow release, soil enhancing form.
Using Bio Complete Compost
Bio complete compost can be added to garden beds before planting each season. It is also excellent for potting mixes for containers and seed starting. Here are some recommended applications.
- Till 1-3 inches of compost into vegetable and flower beds annually.
- When planting trees, add compost into the planting hole and the backfill soil. Mix some into annual tree rings.
- Amend potting soil with 25-50% compost for planting containers and indoor plants.
- Top-dress grass lawns in early spring and fall with 1/4 – 1/2 inch of compost to enhance soil.
- Mulch annuals and perennials with an inch or two of compost to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
- Surround transplants with compost when planting to reduce transplant shock and feed roots.
By properly formulating and maintaining your compost according to Dr. Ingham’s method, you’ll produce a living, nutritious soil enhancer that brings manifold benefits to your garden.
Dr. Ingham’s Bio Complete Compost Recipe
Dr. Ingham’s compost recipe uses a diverse mix of ingredients to create ideal conditions for a full spectrum of beneficial organisms that break down organic matter into finished compost. Her recipe produces compost teeming with beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods, insects, worms, and more that progressively break down materials. These microorganisms efficiently convert nutrients into plant-available forms.
- 20% manure (cow, horse or chicken manure) – High nitrogen materials.
- 40% green materials such as grass clippings.
- 40% woody materials like wood chips.
- 1 handful of finished compost per cubic meter of materials: Inoculates pile with beneficial microbes.
- Optional additions like sawdust, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, wood ash: Provide additional nutrients and/or balance carbon-nitrogen ratio. To produce the highest quality compost, try to stick with the above percentages of each variety.
Avoid these materials in your compost pile:
- Weeds with seeds: These can propagate more weeds.
- Invasive plants: Their seeds might survive in the compost.
- Diseased plants: The disease-causing agents might not break down during composting.
- Foods such as meat, oils, bones, and cheese that can attract pests.
- Pet waste from cats and dogs: It can introduce harmful pathogens.
Steps for Making Bio Complete Compost
1. Gather ingredients as they become available, stockpiling browns (dried stalks, leaves, wood chips, straw) and greens (grass clippings, garden waste). Collect nitrogen sources like manure.
2. Build your pile on bare earth or permeable weed barrier. Locate in partial shade. The pile should be at least 3’x3’x3′ to hold heat and moisture.
3. Layer browns, greens, nitrogen sources, and some finished compost in thin, alternating layers as you build the pile. Mix and re-layer periodically.
4. Optional: Place perforated PVC pipes throughout the layers to aerate the pile.
5. Maintain proper moisture like a wrung-out sponge. Turn or mix the pile weekly and after adding wet materials or rain.
6. Monitor internal temperature with a compost thermometer. Turn the pile to increase oxygen if temperature exceeds 140°F.
7. In 2-4 months, the composting process will finish, indicated by: sweet, earthy smell, dark crumbly texture, temperature drops to ambient level.
8. Allow compost to fully mature for about month or two before using. The longer it cures, the more stable nutrients become.
9. To use, screen out any unfinished chunks to compost further. Incorporate 1-3 inches of finished compost into soil surface before planting.
Common Problems and Solutions
- Bad smell: Add more carbon materials or aerate pile.
- Doesn’t heat up: Turn and mix in more greens and nitrogen sources.
- Ammonia smell: Too much nitrogen, add carbon materials.
- Pile is too dry: Add water while turning pile.
- Pile is too wet: Add more carbon materials and turn pile.
- Attracting pests: Cover pile, stop adding food scraps, set pest traps.
With the right ingredients and some simple maintenance, you can create bio complete compost at home that will greatly enrich your garden soil and plants. Follow Dr. Ingham’s recipe for compost teeming with diverse beneficial microbes that releases nutrients sustainably. Making your own compost is one of the best things you can do for your garden.