Do-it-yourself soil! Composting is a simple and satisfying way to give back to the environment and to cut down on your garbage collection bill. Here’s how to do it:
–BIN. Construct a bin for your compost. There’s no right or wrong bin, but a lid might be beneficial for those with frisky raccoons, opossums, or close neighbors. Bins also help regulate moisture and temperature.
–BALANCING. Fill bin with a balanced mixture of “green stuff” (carbon) and “brown stuff” (nitrogen). This activates the heat process and encourages aerobic (air dependent) bacteria growth. You’ll want a working balance between the two.
*Brown stuff is high in carbon and serves as the fiber for your compost and also allows for more porosity in your heap (make sure your organisms can breath!). You should aim for 2/3 carbon and 1/3 nitrogen.
*Green stuff provides materials for making enzymes and should be used in moderation. If your compost takes on a sour or vinegary odor, add more carbon and turn it for aeration.
–WATER. Your heap should be about as damp as a cloth that has been wrung out. If your pile gets too wet it may not be able to breath. If it’s too dry, add some good ‘ol H2O.
–TEMPERATURE. An indication of microbial activity is all in the temperature. Your aim is to have a steaming hot heap of compost. If your pile is not steaming the microbial activity has slowed, add more nitrogen.
–AIR. Turn your compost pile about once or twice a week for proper aeration. You can do this by sifting through it with a pitchfork, dumping it out and putting it back in the bin, or simply turning it with a handle if you have a store-bought compost bin.
–HARVESTING. Spread your new compost into your garden. CAUTION – fresh compost can rob the soil of nitrogen as it continues to break down. It’s best to wait a few weeks before planting anything in it.
*Break up large clumps. These clumps can start to decompose anaerobically (not air dependent), which is slow and smelly. You want your compost to decompose aerobically (air dependent), which is faster and sweet smelling.
*Avoid pesticide and/or herbicide-treated material.
*If your compost heap is smelly add carbon, turn it, and break up clumps. Add lime or saw dust to the top to mask odor.
*DO NOT add bones, meat, oil/fat, synthetic fibers, plastic, disposable diapers, diseased plants, glossy paper, coal/coke ash, cat litter, dairy, carnivorous/omnivorous manure, bread, or nuts. These items can become slimy and slow decomposition. It’s best to just toss these into your garden or under a tree (away from a road). Your back yard critters will discover them quickly.
*DO USE fruit, veggies, eggshells, leaves, lawn clippings, small branches, straw/hay, pine needles (use sparingly due to high acidity), flowers, wood ash, coffee grounds (and filter), tea bags (with filter), newspaper, shredded paper (no colored inks), cardboard, dryer lint.
For more information check out http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html