Black gold is as highly prized among gardeners as the real thing is among the rest of the population. Black gold is another name for compost and it’s what makes our gardens grow. Unlike real gold, we can make the black variety ourselves. In addition to making our gardens grow better by improving the soil, homemade compost also saves money and recycles kitchen waste so it doesn’t end up in landfills.
Here’s the starting point – creating a dedicated space to hold the kitchen waste and other organic matter until it decomposes. The compost pile can be as simple as a literal pile of leaves and food scraps or it can be as complicated and costly as having a series of bins housing differing degrees of decomposition. That is up to each gardener, but start a compost pile somewhere if in nothing other than a 5-gallon bucket.
Brown and Green
Regardless of what the pile is housed in, layer brown and green organic matter to eventually end up with black gold. The ‘brown’ is dead matter, like dried leaves and the ‘green’ matter is kitchen scraps like apple and potato peelings.
When using leaves, run the lawn mower over them to chop them up for faster decomposition. Place a layer of brown matter on the bottom of the pile, add a layer of green then moisten the two layers before adding more layers. Continue the brown and green layering process until the compost bin (pile, bucket, etc) is full then leave it alone to cook.
Turn the compost pile once a week with a garden shovel or pitch fork to blend the outer ingredients into the center of the pile where it’s the hottest.
What to Compost
You may be surprised to discover what can be tossed onto the compost pile. Food scraps that you normally would dump into the sink and run through the garbage disposal can be turned into black gold for your garden.
All vegetable and fruit peelings, cores, stalks and tough outer leaves. Egg shells, coffee grounds and leftover vegetables and fruits that have passed their prime. Any food scraps except meat, meat grease, fat, bones or dairy products are a welcomed addition to the compost pile.
Outdoors offers a bounty of brown and green compost-able material – fallen, dry leaves and green leaves, small twigs, wood shavings, garden refuse, lawn clippings and newspaper.
How to Use Black Gold
Layer the brown and green, wet it, turn it and watch the refuse turn into black gold for your garden. When all the organic material has decomposed, place a wire screen or chicken wire on top of a wheel barrow and shovel the finished compost onto the screen wire to act like a sieve. The small black gold particles will fall through into the wheel barrow while the larger pieces remain on top and can be re-added to the compost pile for a little more ‘cooking’ time.
Use the black gold in planting holes, as side dressing for plants, incorporate it directly into garden soil and/or make black gold tea to water and feed garden plants.