Outdoors

How to Make Compost

Composting is the natural process of organic materials decomposing. The end result is a rich earthy material that can be used to amend and enrich any soil. It is as simple to make as throwing kitchen and yard waste into a pile in a backyard corner. From there, natural bacteria take over (with no help from you) and begin turning last night's salad and the leaves that fell from the maple tree, into usable soil amendments. Left to its own devises, a compost pile could take as long as a year and a half to break down. With a little help however, it can take as little as 3 weeks to produce usable compost.
 
How to Make Compost:
Making compost quickly requires three elements, balanced brown and green materials, air and moisture.
 
Brown Components:
feed beneficial bacteria and should make up the majority of the compost pile. A ratio of 5 parts brown to 1 part green is a good place to start. Brown components should be broken down into small pieces to facilitate the process; and include shredded paper products (nothing coated); finely grated wood such as sawdust; sunflower or corn stalks and husks; dry grass and leaves; small amounts of wood ash; and even dryer lint.

Green Components:
are consumed by mulching microbes and decompose quickly. Without enough green components a pile will make usable compost slowly; however, with too many green components the pile will be slimy and smell of ammonia (rotten eggs). Green components include fresh plant material such as cut grass, herbivore manure, vegetables and fruit, rinds, coffee grounds, eggshells, and other food scraps.

Do not include:
meats, fish, dairy, oils or fats. They attract insects and wild animals, create a bad stink and do not break down easily. Also, do not use manure from animals that are fed any meat products.

How to Balance Compost:
A balanced compost pile will have a rich earthy smell, not a rotten stench. If it smells bad, add more browns. It should also be warm and may steam (think fresh manure). The center of a pile should reach between 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit. If the compost pile is cool to the touch more green components are needed.
 
A compost pile should be moist (not wet), like a damp rag. If it begins to dry out a little water is needed.
 
The microbes and bacteria that make compost are aerobic and therefore need air. The more often a compost pile is turned, the faster it will make compost.
 
Composting is an easy, inexpensive and organic way to not only enrich garden soil, but dispose of organic waste. The rewards of doing so are a healthy garden, a plentiful harvest and a happier, greener Earth.
 
Photo Credit: Corbis

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