How to Use Food Scraps to Fertilize Your Garden Naturally

How to Use Food Scraps to Fertilize Your Garden Naturally

How to Use Food Scraps to Fertilize Your Garden Naturally

Introduction

Turning food scraps into garden fertilizer is an excellent way to reduce waste and improve your soil at the same time. Composting with food scraps allows me to recycle nutrients and return them to the earth. In this article, I’ll explain the benefits of using food scraps as fertilizer and provide tips for composting kitchen waste at home.

Why Use Food Scraps as Fertilizer?

There are several advantages to using food scraps as a natural fertilizer:

  • Reduces waste – Composting food scraps keeps them out of landfills and gives them a productive second life. This is an eco-friendly way to handle inevitable food waste.

  • Nutrient-rich – Fruits, vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags contain valuable nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that plants thrive on. Composting makes these nutrients available to your garden.

  • Improves soil structure – The organic matter provided by composted food scraps helps improve soil texture, increases moisture retention and promotes healthy microbial activity in the soil.

  • Promotes plant growth – The nutrients and organic materials in compost serve as an excellent slow-release fertilizer for plants. Compost improves yields and overall plant vigor.

  • Cheap – Since most food scraps would have otherwise been thrown away, composting waste to make fertilizer costs nothing. It’s a free way to boost your garden.

How to Compost Food Scraps

Composting is the natural process of breaking down organic matter like food scraps into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Here are some tips for successful composting at home:

Selecting a Compost Bin

  • An enclosed compost bin helps contain the waste, retains heat and moisture, and keeps pests out. Use a bin made from plastic, wood or wire mesh. I use a black plastic composter with a lid.

  • Bins come in different sizes – select one based on your household’s food scrap output and garden size. I use a 60 gallon/220 liter compost bin in my small backyard.

  • Location – Place the compost bin directly on the soil in a shady or partially shady spot near a water source. I keep my composter under a tree to keep it cool.

Adding the Right Ingredients

  • Almost all food waste can be composted, including fruits, vegetables, breads, grains, coffee grounds, eggshells and nut shells.

  • Do not compost meat, fish or dairy products as these can attract pests and rodents. Avoid oils and greasy foods too.

  • Alternate wet nitrogen-rich “greens” like fruit and veggie scraps with dry carbon-rich “browns” like leaves, sawdust and cardboard.

  • Chop or shred large pieces. I keep a small shovel next to my bin to mix the compost.

  • Turn or stir the compost pile weekly to introduce oxygen. Oxygen and moisture accelerate the breakdown process.

Maintaining Proper Conditions

  • The ideal composting temperature is between 90-140??F (32-60??C). Turning the compost ensures the center heats up.

  • Moisture content should be like a wrung-out sponge, not soggy or bone dry. I spray my compost pile with water if it feels dry.

  • In a well-maintained compost bin, food scraps should turn into dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling compost in 2-3 months. Smaller particles decompose faster.

  • If the compost starts to smell rotten, it likely needs more oxygen. Simply turn the pile to improve airflow.

Using Composted Food Scraps in Your Garden

Once your compost looks dark and crumbly with no recognizable food bits, it’s ready to use! Here are some ways to use compost made from food waste:

  • Mix 1-2 inches of compost into the top 6-8 inches of garden bed soil before planting. The nutrients will gently seep down to the plant roots.

  • Make compost tea by steeping compost in water for a nutritious foliar spray or soil drench for plants. I fill a 5-gallon bucket halfway with compost and top it off with water.

  • Use pure compost or a mix of compost and garden soil to fill containers and raised beds for planting. The compost helps with drainage.

  • Top dress lawns and existing garden beds by spreading a thin layer of compost over the soil surface. The nutrients will feed plants slowly.

  • Mulch garden pathways and bare soil with a 1-3 inch layer of compost to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

With a simple compost bin and consistent food scrap inputs, I am able to produce all the nutritious compost I need for my garden! It’s very satisfying to turn kitchen waste into free fertilizer. Composting food scraps has definitely improved my soil quality and plant growth. I highly recommend other gardeners try using food waste to nourish their gardens naturally.