Compost is considered the black gold of organic gardening. It is a major requirement for having a healthy environment and doing our part to feed our soil. Since 1992 in Minnesota you are not allowed to put yard trimmings and tree waste into the garbage. For the rest of us in the USA, it is predicted that 1/6th of landfill material can go into our compost pile. By composting you will answer the question ‘where does compost come from?’ You can change wastes, yard trimmings, leaves, and a huge amount of kitchen scraps into a dark fine mixture that can be applied to make better the soil and cut back the use of fertilizer and water. Best of all, the actual real work is performed by mother nature in the decomposing. She has been doing this for thousands of years. Let us take a couple of moments to see what makes composting succeed and build a simple compost pile.
Bacteria are found in all kinds of organic matter(compost). They do the primary breakdown of materials without having to put them to work. Naturally, they live and reproduce on their own and flourish under the proper conditions. Nonbacterial workers like worms, fungi, and many invertebrates will work in your compost pile for just food and board. Some will feed on the actual material and others will eat on the bacteria but the natural chain will work together and put out a finished product unmatched. You can even compost rotting apples. Compost horse manure or even add fresh grass clippings to manure compost.
GREEN AND BROWN INGREDIENTS
The greens like green leaves, coffee grounds, plant trimmings, fresh grass clippings, raw fruit and vegetable scraps are items to put in compost pile that will provide nitrogen and protein for the microbes hard at work in the pile.
The browns like dried grasses, straw, wood chips, twigs, branches, sawdust, shredded newspaper, corncobs, and cornstalks provide carbon and energy for the microbes. Microbes are living things they need water and air. Turning your pile every 2 weeks will allow aeration to aid the decomposition. NOTE: I suggest that two smaller side by side bins be used in order to ease the task of turning. Turn from one to the other.
OK LET’S GET STARTED ON THE COMPOST BIN
To see what this person did to build a compost bin out of pallets.
1. Keep it simple.
Inexpensive materials like old pallets, snow fence, or chicken wire with poles can be used for homemade composting bins. Cheaper yet is just make a simple pile without a frame. The bins though will have a compost aeration design for better aeration, retain heat, and better looking. The result is aeration compost systems. As far as size goes if we stay at about 1 cubic yard (3 ft. high x 3 ft. long x 3 ft. wide), we will get the heat necessary and retain the moisture. This size is easy to turn as well.
2. What to add? Even if you only have grass clippings and leaves this is enough to decompose. Don’t worry about not having enough at the start. When items become available, add them. Water sparingly but don’t forget to water. If too wet just turn the pile to another bin to dry. Rain, fresh grass clippings are 70% water, will provide the moisture. You will find that smaller items decompose faster so shred and use compost chippers if possible. When building layers with greens and browns you are building with nitrogen and carbon layers. How to prepare a compost pile is started here. Start that bin with a layer of twigs or coarse items to provide air circulation.
3. Turn the pile.Take a pitchfork to turn the compost after the first week, don’t be afraid to add greens and browns to pile at any time. Repeat the turning until you see materials that are dark and crumbly, earthy smelling, and does not look anything like what you put in the bin in the first place. Make yourself a compost tumbler.
USING THE BLACK GOLDYour finished product-compost is not a fertilizer but is full of nutrients that will enrich anywhere you put it. This is showing the effect of compost enhancement. Use it in your vegetable garden, lawn, potted plants, and flower garden. Compost will add that much-needed drainage capability to the soil. Add over rocky areas to provide a growing media. You have just created the richest soil anywhere.
The Happy DIY Home Staff has put together another interesting page to show their opinion about compost making here at How to Make Compost. Give it a look.