Compost is an easy way for you to eliminate waste at your homestead and create a valuable soil amendment for your garden. Whether you live on a farm or in the suburbs you can start composting today. Let’s talk about how to make compost.
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What Is Compost?
Compost is made from decomposed plant or animal (or combination of both) waste that is layered in a way that encourages the material to quickly decompose. The microorganisms break down the matter until the finished material is a dark black soil consistency.
Cold compost is creating a pile of kitchen scraps, vegetation, and water and letting nature takes its course. Over time the material will break down.
Hot compost is creating a pile but actively turning the pile every three days. The internal temperature should reach 160 degrees. This process kills all the pathogens and weed seeds. This method is more labor intensive, but you develop finished compost in less than 30 days.
What Are the Benefits of Making Compost?
Using waste: Composting is a wonderful way to eliminate waste from going to the landfill. You are improving the environment by taking waste and turning it back into something beneficial to your garden and homestead. Way to go!
Soil amendment: Compost is full of nutrients that will feed your plants. It improves the structure of your soil because it holds moisture and discourages erosion.
What Can and Cannot be Composted?
Yes! You can compost raw vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, weeds (no seeds), grass, leaves, certain animal manure, shredded paper, or eggshells.
No! You should not compost meat, dairy, cooked foods, oils or fats, anything that has been treated with herbicides or pesticides, weeds that have already gone to seed, diseased plants, dog or cat feces.
What size should my compost be?
3 foot high by 3 foot wide is the general size of a compost pile. This size generates enough heat to break down the materials and kill the weed seeds and is also manageable with using only a pitchfork.
Do I need a Compost bin?
The short answer is no, definitely not. You do not need any kind of bin or container. You can make a free-standing pile all on its own.
The only reason for a bin is to keep the pile looking nice and tidy. If you have limited space and are concerned about insects, smells, or presentation a bin may be best for you.
How to Build a Compost Pile
what you need:
Browns(carbon): Hay or straw, cardboard, fall leaves, wood chips, shredded paper, or newspaper
Greens(nitrogen): grass clippings, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, weeds, animal manure (cow, rabbit, chicken, sheep, goat)
Water: Water keeps your pile moist so the good bacteria can break down your pile
Once you choose your pile location, gather the materials from the list above.
Start with browns and make a layer, top that with greens, add some water and repeat this process until you run out of material. Water your pile one last time.
If you are hot composting turn your pile and add water when needed every three days. If you are cold composting keep adding as you get material and allow the pile to sit and decompose.
Should I cover the compost pile?
There is no right or wrong here. It is totally your preference. A covered pile traps in heat and moisture better than an uncovered pile. Also, during rainy season excessive rain may wash away the nutrients from the pile.
On the other hand covering a compost pile may restrict airflow and cause your pile to smell. If you do cover it leave a gap at the bottom to ensure air flow.
How Do You Use the Compost?
Now that your compost is finished it’s time to use that black gold!! You can use it to help fill your raised beds or planting containers, or top dress (fancy for saying put the compost around your plants on top of the existing soil) your garden throughout the season.
If you don’t have a vegetable garden, you can always use the compost in the flower beds, around your trees, on your lawn as a fertilizer or give it to a friend who does have a veggie garden!
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