How To Compost (part II)
So now that we know what to compost- we can either throw all of the good stuff into the green bin and let your local trash removal take care of composting, or you can compost at home.
We learned that composting is a natural way to recycle decomposed organic materials. This process of decomposition creates compost, or rich soil. That rich soil can then be used to enhance your plants and trees in your front and backyard.
Statistics estimate that regular composting at home can remove roughly 500 pounds of organic matter, a.k.a. household waste, each year. This simple act directly benefits the environment by redirecting and repurposing waste once sent to landfills or incinerators.
MAKE SURE YOUR COMPOST PILE HAS PLENTY OF SPACE.
In order for organic matter to decompose, it needs air and “porosity,” or airflow, within the pile.
PREPARE WASTE BEFORE PUTTING IT IN THE COMPOST PILE. Particle size matters to support decomposition and porosity; chipping, grinding, or shredding waste materials will provide more surface area for microorganisms to feed on. “Brown” materials can be shredded, including leaves, paper, and cardboard, to better distribute moisture and air to break down matter.
- USE FRESH COMPOST A FEW WEEKS BEFORE PLANTING YOUR GARDEN.
Once the compost is ready, it will need several weeks to work into the garden soil; mix and allow the organic nutrients to settle before planting.
YOUR COMPOST PILE NEEDS NITROGEN and the right carbon/nitrogen ratio
Microbes that break down organic matter also need nitrogen to support their proteins; green ingredients like kitchen scraps, plant clippings, leaves, and manure are recommended.
Experts recommend a 30:1 C/N (Carbon/Nitrogen) compost pile ratio; one part “green” to two parts “brown” should provide a balanced mix
MAKE SURE YOUR COMPOST PILE HAS THE RIGHT BALANCE OF WATER
Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station agricultural scientist Abigail Maynard, Ph.D., likens the ideal compost pile to a “wrung-out sponge.” Too little water can slow decomposition; too much water can reduce airflow.
YOUR COMPOST PILE NEEDS CARBON
Feed your pile with carbon ingredients to provide the microbes that break down organic matter with an energy source; brown matter like cornstalks, straw, and leaves are recommended.
HOW TO COMPOST AT HOME
COMPOSTING CAN BE EASY, CHEAP, AND SATISFYING.
Composting enthusiasts call compost “one of nature’s best mulches and soil amendments.” Once you get the knack of composting, it can be used inexpensively and safely instead of chemical fertilizers. Composting is eco-friendly, and it also gives back; using compost on a lawn or garden can help to enhance soil fertility and support healthy plant root development. Clearly, composting is Mother Nature’s friend.
Here is what you need to create the perfect compost pile
2- Green materials (containing nitrogen)—herbivore animal manure, vegetable or fruit kitchen waste, or grass clippings
3- One to two shovels of garden soil
4- 3’ x 3’ x 3 composting area, up to 5’ x 5’ x 5’
5- 4-tined pitchfork
6- Composting thermometer
Now it’s time to make your compost pile, step-by-step
Choose a compost pile or bin location. Remember, a dry, shady spot is best. Spread your first brown layer in the allotted area or bin. Use dry straw, leaves, or cornstalks as a foundation. Add a layer of “green,” like fruit and vegetable scraps or plant clippings. Spread a layer of garden soil. Add water to moisten all three layers. Continue with the same layer pattern of brown, green, and a small amount of soil to create a pile 3 feet high. Layer in a carbon/nitrogen ratio of one part “green” to two parts “brown,” as recommended above. This means that you will add more brown than green in the layers you create. Use a pitchfork to turn the compost pile every few weeks, from the center out. Make sure that the pile stays moist but not damp. It is normal to see steam rise from the pile as you turn, a heat byproduct of decomposition. Optional but recommended: Use a compost thermometer to check decomposition temperature between 110° and 160°F, normally met within two weeks.
Once composting begins, it is up to you whether you would like to add to or maintain your current pile. You can add fresh materials and turn and water regularly during the warmer season while monitoring temperature with your compost thermometer. Keeping temperatures above 110°F will ensure that your pile remains active with efficient breakdown. Turning the pile weekly will help meet this temperature goal, compared to average compost pile turnover at every 4 to 5 weeks.
Good luck and in the end, enjoy your nutrient-rich soil!
* Composting tips from the "SodGod" and Composting 101- by Organic Gardening