Sunday, July 4, 2010

Random Compost Advice

Definition
In simplest measures, composting is the method of turning organic wastes in usable soil. While one can get highly scientific about creating compost, this is my quick and dirty guide to making easy compost (the compost is, however, not so quick).


Pile It On
Start out with whatever yard wastes and kitchen scraps you may have. This can include leaves, grass, all fruit or veggie scraps, or even twigs. Pile all this together somewhere in your yard that won't even your neighbor (it shouldn't smell but your neighbor may not take to seeing kitchen scraps outside).

Turn It
Turning the compost pile provides necessary oxygen for the bacteria in it that's working to break down the pile. You need not frequently turn it. Some people only turn it once or twice a year. Others never turn it. I try to turn mine at least once a week. The other option is to drive a PVC pipe down the middle or the pile to encourage air circulation.



Make It Fancier
Once you have mastered the basics and want to continue this as a long term project, consider building a bin for it. This can easily be constructed from palettes or fencing. I have a Compost Tumbler I use for some composting that is essentially a drum on a roller.

Make It Easier
Many stores sell compost this time of year. This is a more costly approach but you still gain the benefits of compost in your garden or lawn.

Other Tips!
You do not need to compost in exact proportions as some advocate. Yes, mixing your carbon materials or nitrogen materials properly will yield quicker compost but is not necessary. Nature eventually breaks everything down. Give it time.

Unless you're in a huge hurry, skip the compost activators. They will speed up your pile but once again, are not needed.


Adding to the Pile
Firstly, consider briefly what you compost... Is it just kitchen scraps, some grass clippings, and leaves when you feel so inclined? Consider the list You Grow Girl has compiled. Try recycling your used cotton balls, old pasta, or even wine. Its amazing how much more you can compost and reduce your trash.

However, do not compost...
  • Barbecue charcoal
  • Coal
  • Animal parts/meat/bones
  • Glossy paper with colored ink
  • Fat or grease
  • Sawdust from pressure treated lumber
Clarification!

Charcoal is not typically recommended for compost (neither are wood ashes) because of the lime they add to the pile. Since lime is an alkali it will throw off the pH in your compost tremendously. I have used it to counter balance an acidic ingredient like pine needles or in place of buying lime from the store for certain plants.