Composting Your Yard Waste - It’s Easy!
What is Compost?
Compost is an excellent, nutrient-rich, soil conditioner which is produced when organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, and other garden waste, along with non-meat kitchen waste is broken down by bacteria, fungi, worms, and other small organisms in the soil.
There are many benefits to composting . . .
- Composting is an easy way to return organic material to the soil. Adding compost improves soil structure - sandy soils will hold water and nutrients better and clay soils will drain more quickly.
- Composting adds nutrients to the soil and reduces the need for fertilizers.
- Compost-rich soil promotes deep and extensive root systems and healthier plants which are less susceptible to diseases and insect pests.
- Composting reduces the amount of organic matter going to our landfills.
How Do I Compost?
The Compost Bin - There are many commercial compost bins available or you can create your own using hay bales, wooden planks, concrete blocks, freight pallets, hardware cloth, or chicken wire. Actually, you don’t even need a bin to make compost but it makes your pile more tidy and inconspicuous.
- To ensure good air circulation, it is important to leave spaces between bales, blocks, or planks, as air is essential to the breakdown of organic matter.
- Make your compost bin at least 27 cubic feet in size (3’x3’x3’), but not larger than 125 cubic feet (5’x5’x5’). This will ensure optimal heat buildup and good aeration.
- Placing your compost bin in a sunny, warm spot with good air circulation will promote faster composting. A cool shady location will work, but, the process will take longer.
- Many gardeners put two or even three bins side-by-side so they can have one or two for actively composting material and one for finished compost.
Creating and Maintaining a Compost Pile -
- Begin your pile with a layer of coarse plant material or brush trimmings
- Add an 8" to 10" layer of dry, brown material such as dry leaves, sawdust, shredded newspaper, or other dry organic wastes from your yard, garden, or kitchen.
- Next add a 2" to 3" layer of fresh grass clippings and other fresh, green material, even fresh manure to provide a source of nitrogen to the microorganisms breaking down your pile.
- Manure, fertilizers, compost activator, or even just some soil will inoculate your pile with microorganisms and speed up the decomposition process.
- Keep your pile moist but not wet and within a few days it should begin to heat up. It should reach and stay at 160o F to kill most weed seeds, insects and eggs, and disease.
- Once a month, turn the pile with a pitch fork to add oxygen to the center of the pile.
- Your compost should be ready within 5 months. If you use shredded material, and turn it more often, your compost may be ready in 1 to 2 months.