This post gives you valuable compost information, how to make it, and the “Do”s and “Don’t”s of making compost.
Composting is a natural process in which macro- and micro-organisms break down organic materials such as leaves, grass and vegetable scraps to form a rich, soil-like substance. The resulting compost is a dark, rich, organic material. When added to soil, compost provides nutrients to plants and improves the water-holding capacity of soil.
Composting adds nutrients to the soil. Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease. Composting is actually growing soil which benefit the plants and let you grow good plants. Better soil equates to better tasting and more nutritionally dense food.
Composting is accomplished by mixing carbon material (browns) with nitrogen materials (greens) and keeping it aerated and sufficiently wet. When the right combination of ingredients is mixed together, good bacteria go to work and break it down and make nutrients bio-available to the plants. More on the combination of ingredients later.
Most beneficial organisms in compost are in aerobic composting. Aerobic composting is the bacteria breaking down the material with oxygen. In addition to bacteria you’ll also find actinobacteria, fungi, protozoa, rotifers and usually earth worms in an aerobic compost pile. Anaerobic composting on the other hand happens with a lack of enough oxygen. Anaerobic composting causes a pile to stink and causes mostly bad organisms to multiply in you compost pile. To ensure that you have Aerobic vs. Anaerobic composting, you “turn” your pile several times to get oxygen into the center of the pile. This is usually done by moving the pile from one location to another.
Compost Dos and Don’ts
C:N Carbon to Nitrogen ratio
- 60% should be carbon – wood chips, sawdust, brown leaves, cardboard, newspapers, junk mail, straw or hay, pine needles, wood ash, corn cobs and stalks, and dryer lint.
- 30% should be greens – lawn clippings, veggie waste, green leaves, weeds, table scraps, fruit and vegetable scraps, green comfrey leaves, seaweed and kelp, chicken manure, coffee grounds, and tea leaves.
- 10% High Nitrogen – This jumpstarts your pile – manure from clean animals, untreated alfalfa, meat, blood, and road kill offal.
- Do NOT use: pet manures, Banana, peach, or orange peels, or black walnut leaves.
- Water – compost must be kept at 50% moisture. Squeeze a handful of compost and….
- If no water drips and it won’t hold together you are under 30% moisture and you wont have the diversity you need
- If water comes out from between your fingers you are at 70% or more, you have gone anaerobic and must dry it out and start over.
- You want to only be able to squeeze out ONE drop of water to have your moisture correct at 50%
- Cover with a tarp
- Do NOT start a pile too small. A Pile must be 3’x3’ to create and hold enough heat to compost efficiently.
- Maintain 131 F for 3 days, or 150 F for 2 days or 165 F for 1 day (use caution above 165 F – at 170 F and above too much oxygen is used and the pile can go anaerobic.
- Pile must be turned to get an even temperature or average of 131 for 3 days on all parts of the pile. A minimum of 3 turns. More if needed. May be needed if it gets to hot. This temperature for this duration will kill most bad bugs and weed seeds in the pile.
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For more compost information go to howtocompost.org