Sunday, November 22, 2009

How To Make Compost

You are going to need a lot of plants around the pond and the best way to grow them is using plenty of compost. Making good compost quickly is not as easy as a lot of people might say. If you want it fast, it takes a lot of work to get it right. It is easy if you want it next year, but if you want it in about 6 to 8 weeks, prepare to work for it.

First you need to designate an area of at least 6' by 4'. You can enclose the area with just about anything. I have used old branches jammed into the ground. Keep an opening so you can get into the area easily. You can also just make a pile without enclosing it.

I have had several compost areas in my yard over the last few years. Here are a few of them...

The key to getting it fast is to chop, shred, and cut everything as small as possible. Use a chipper, a mulcher, lawn mower, or just some hand clippers. This is the single most important part of the process. If you don't do this, you will not get fast compost.

You can use just about anything that will decompose in the pile. All food scraps, paper plates, newspaper(don't over do it), lawn/yard clippings, coffee grounds, and egg shells are just a few items I frequently put in the pile. Avoid using meat, greasy foods, and pet feces. These items will stink, attract animals, and and can cause disease.

The pile must be as large as you can make it. 4' wide by 3' high is as small as you want it. Any smaller and it won't get hot enough. The larger, the better. Size matters.

I always put new items on the top of the pile so that when I turn it, I can remove the fresh stuff before turning it. Then I place them back on the top. After it starts to decompose, it will just blend in with the pile and you should have fresher items on top by then. It just keeps feeding from the top down. This way I have a continuous pile instead of having another pile while waiting for the main pile to compost. The only problem with this method is you have to remove any items that haven't fully composted that might have got mixed into the pile.

Turn the pile every week. This can be a back breaking process and is the main reason I say that it is difficult to make compost. Some people use tumblers, but they are not even close to being big enough for my yard. Last fall My pile was about 12 feet long and 5 feet high. By January the pile had decomposed to about 5 feet long and about 3 feet high. That brings up another point, in winter, composting slows down, way down. When you turn the pile, do it in the cool of night. The process slows down late at night and it won't be so hot when you turn it.

Your pile must get hot. If it isn't hot, then you are doing something wrong. Make sure the pile is wet, but not soggy, at all times. Use green and brown items in the pile. You need a lot of dried up material, such as dried leaves, straw, or paper in the pile to provide carbon. Green items provide the nitrogen. When the pile is going good, you will know it. On a cool morning, it will be steaming if you open the pile. Like this...

Once it is done you should sift it to remove the larger objects. And for your troubles, you now have great organic, home-made compost. Your plants will thank you.

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