Making garden compost is not a complicated process. You can make composting as simple and as inexpensive as you want. How you approach composting is up to you. You can make your own compost bin or you can simply make compost piles. You can even buy a compost thermometer to check internal temperature to keep track of how it is heating up.
Mother nature has been composting successfully since the beginning of time. Man has been trying to improve on her formula ever since. While it’s hard to compete with an expert, man has found some methods for speeding up the compost making process.
You can mix up a batch of the proper compost elements in recommended proportions and sit back and let nature take it’s course. In this case you will have compost in one to two years. Or, you can take a more active role, work the compost consistently and have compost in about two months.
Leaves, hay, dry weeds or dry grass, cardboard, newspaper (no colored ink), straw, sawdust or wood chips in small amounts, are all brown or carbon ingredients for compost.
Fresh grass clippings, aged manure, green weeds, garden waste, and kitchen wastes such as (fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells), are green or nitrogen ingredients.
Pet feces or manure from meat eaters should never be used. Do not use meat, oils, weeds that have gone to seed, invasive plants, or grass clippings that have been sprayed with herbicide.
Manure from plant eating animals is good in compost. Cow manure, horse manure, rabbit manure, and chicken manure are all possibilities. Manure should be aged before adding to compost and care should be taken to reach a good temperature in the composting process to lessens the possibility of pathogens surviving. The internal temperature of the compost pile should reach between 104 and 131 degrees. Your compost piles should be turned when temperature is above 131 or below 104 degrees.
How To Make Compost
It is best to assemble your compost ingredients separately until you have enough for a 3x3x3 pile, then combine them. Somehow the chemistry just seems to work better with this minimum quantity. Rather than layering, compost ingredients should be mixed.
The usual ratio is 30 to 1 by weight. 30 carbons or browns to 1 nitrogen or green ingredients. Some practice and adjustment may be needed to get it right. Some texture here and there is good for air flow. Or, some folks use tree branches and give them a shake frequently to allow air flow. Water is also a necessary ingredient. The rule of thumb, is enough to make the mix like a wrung out sponge. Not so wet that if you squeeze it you get dripping.
Add a little soil to the mix here and there as you are building, and I usually add a little to the top so I don’t have rotting things exposed and smelling. The soil adds microbes to kind of get things started.
Composting will greatly benefit your vegetable garden and your ornamental plants, and at the same time be an earth friendly act. Also, depending on where you live, composting can possibly save you substantially on waste management costs.
If your compost isn’t heating up you may need more nitrogen such as fresh grass or manure. If that doesn’t help then you probably need more air or a little water.
If your compost pile smells bad add more dry materials or carbons, such as hay, straw, or dry leaves. Turn your compost material to add more air, or add coarse material to encourage air flow.
Rodents and animals should not be a problem unless you have added materials to your compost that are on the don’t add list
To determine compost maturity, look for a dark earthlike color. It should have an earthy fragrance, and some texture. Mature compost should cling together, but not ball up or clump.
Some materials such as eggshells or woody items may not completely break down. I found that making a compost sifter with a frame just large enough to sit atop my wheelbarrow, and covering it with large mesh screen worked well. I shovel the compost onto the screen and whatever doesn’t shake through goes back for next year’s compost.
Happy composting, and may ‘the force of nature’ be with you.