Composting How To
When choosing a site for composting one should choose an area that is convenient to the kitchen and garden, yet is also out of sight. A composting bin is not an absolute must for composting as any pile of yard waste is suitable for composting. Nevertheless, a composting bin will help keep the composting pile contained and is less unsightly. A composting bin can be easily maintained in a column formed by a piece of wire mesh. A 4″ x 8″ piece of stiff wire mesh will make an acceptable container for a composting bin.
Others may prefer to buy a permanent composting bin or build a 3 bin composting system. Recycled pallets are ideal for building a 3 bin composting system. The composting bin should be left open on one side to allow for adding composting material and removing ready compost. Gardeners that live in a rainy climate should cover their composting bin with plywood. One advantage of the 3 bin composting system is the fact that a gardener can turn the composting material from one bin to another and have a place to store finished compost until it is ready to be used.
The basic elements of compost are green garden debris and brown garden debris. Green garden debris has a high nitrogen content, while brown garden debris has a high carbon content. A large concentration of green garden debris will cause the pile to stink. Also, do not add animal fodder, meat, dairy products, oil of any kind, plants treated with pesticide or herbicide, diseased plants or weeds that have gone to seed.
Ideally, composting bins should have a ratio of 1 part green material to 2 parts brown material. Composting bins with this ratio tend to break down the fastest. An easy way to attain this ratio is by adding one fork or shovel full of green material then add two fork or shovels full of brown material. Mix thoroughly. Continue doing this until the pile measures at least 3′ x 3′ x 3′. Composting bins of this measure or greater heat more quickly. Consequently, they also break down more quickly. Adding a shovelful of finished compost or garden soil will activate the microbes that do the composting work.
Moisture levels need to be correct for breakdown to occur. A composting bin with the proper level of moisture will feel like a damp sponge that has been wrung out. Too little water will not allow for needed heating while too much water will also cool the composting pile. Too much water will also cause a composting pile to stink. Check water levels weekly. Add water if the composting pile is too dry. Add brown garden debris if the composting pile is to moist.
The composting pile should be turned at least once week. This will move material on the outside to the inside and prevent the composting pile from compacting. A compacted composting pile has reduced airflow which slows decomposition.
In approximately 2 months the composting pile should have finished composting. A composting pile is finished when it no longer heats up and none of the materials are recognizable. Finished compost should be dark brown in color, moist and earthy smelling. Finished compost should be turned into a garden’s soil. Partially composted items can be used as mulch.