Today’s topic -how to make compost. OK maybe it’s not the most compelling subject, but dig a little deeper and you might just find yourself motivated to give it a try! Between recycling our paper, glass, plastic and yard waste our house has very little “regular” garbage, but it’s enticing to think we could have even less -as much as 30% less – by composting!
Right let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of compost. By the way I stole this useful information straight off a very handy site called eartheasy.
Why should you compost?
1.) Soil conditioner. With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil.
2.) Recycles kitchen and yard waste. Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can.
3.) Introduces beneficial organisms to the soil. Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease.
4.) Good for the environment. Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.
5.) Reduces landfill waste. Most landfills in North America are quickly filling up; many have already closed down. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials.
How to Compost:
Compost pile on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.
1.) Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
2.) Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.
Add manure, green manure ( clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass ) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
3.) Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.
Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.
4.) Turn. Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This aerates the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. You can skip this step if you have a ready supply of coarse material, like straw. (See below) Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio
All compostable materials are either carbon or nitrogen-based. The secret to a healthy compost pile is simple: maintain a working balance between these two elements. Carbon – carbon-rich matter (like branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust, shredded brown paper bags, coffee filters, conifer needles, egg shells, hay, peat moss, wood ash) gives compost its light, fluffy body.
Nitrogen – nitrogen or protein-rich matter (manures, food scraps, leafy materials like lawn clippings and green leaves) provides raw materials for making enzymes. A healthy compost pile should have much more carbon than nitrogen. A simple rule of thumb is to use one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. This allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the organisms that reside there. Too much nitrogen makes for a heavy, smelly, slowly decomposing mass. Good composting hygiene means covering fresh nitrogen-rich material, which can release odors if exposed to open air, with carbon-rich material, which often exudes a fresh, wonderful smell. If in doubt, add more carbon!