Learn to correctly make your very own compost pile with materials, microorganisms, how it works, surface area, pile size, moisture, aeration, time and temperature.
Compost is the secret sauce that makes your garden grow. It’s an environmentally friendly way of getting rid of garden and kitchen waste and put it to good use. Compost isn’t hard to make – all you need are the right materials, most of which are around the house anyway, and time.
After a time anything that was once alive will naturally decompose. But, not all organic items should be composted for the home. To prepare compost, organic material, microorganisms, air, water, and a small amount of nitrogen are needed.
These items are safe to compost at home:
These items are Not safe to compost at home:
You need microorganisms to break everything down into compost. Fortunately, there are no shortage of them in any garden! They need nitrogen, air and water to thrive. So long as your compost pile or container is ventilated and is damp (not soaking), the little fellas will be happy and munch their way through everything you drop on them.
Bacteria are the most effective compost makers in your compost pile. They are the first to break down plant tissue. Then comes the fungi and protozoans to help with the process. The arthropodes, like centipedes, beetles, millipedes and worms, bring in the finishing touches to complete the composting.
The materials will break down faster if the microorganisms have more surface area to eat. Chopping your garden materials with a chipper, shredder, or lawnmower will help them decompose faster.
The activity of millions of microorganisms generates heat in the compost pile but a minimum size 3-foot by 3-foot by 3-foot is needed for a hot, fast composting pile. Piles that are any larger may hamper the air supply needed in the pile for the microorganisms.
If you can imagine a wet squeezed out sponge with its many air pockets, then this would be the ideal environment for the microorganisms in the pile to thrive and survive. Make sure your pile isn’t too wet or too dry, and use a fork to turn it over and get air in there.
Keep your pile between 110F and 160F and the beneficial bacteria will love it. Not too cool nor too hot.
The temperature will rise over several days if you keep a good ratio of carbon and nitrogen, maintain lots of surface area within a large volume of material, and maintain adequate moisture and aeration.
A soil amendment – mix 2 to 5 inches of compost into gardens each year before planting.
A potting mixture – add one part compost to two parts potting soil.
Make your own potting mixture by using equal parts of compost and sand or perlite.
A mulch – prodcast 2 to 4 inches of compost around annual flowers and vegetables, and up to 5 inches around your trees and shrubs.
A top dressing – mix finely sifted compost with sand and sprinkle evenly over lawns.
The final thing I would suggest once you have mastered the art of composting is to look very seriously at making your very own aerated compost tea. This elixir will give you results that are hard to believe. Find out how here: https://www.finegardening.com/article/brewing-compost-tea
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