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Dec 05

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Compost A Gardeners Best Friend

compost binHave you ever thought about how much food you waste each day.I know that you have always got some leftover vegetables from last nights dinner, potato peels, or something.

Isn’t it amazing that all that waste food that we can’t or don’t want in the kitchen is hauled off to the landfill or chopped in the garbage disposal sent off the sewer plant when it  is such a great  source of food for the plants in our garden.

Can you imagine the cost of sending all this usable food scrap off to the landfill each day. The cost of transporting it alone is staggering not to mention the cost to the environment it’s self with all those trucks burning fossil fuel.

I know that it is a lot easier to say to ourselves well in 60, 70, or 80 years it will be someone else s problem let them worry about it. The sad fact of the matter it is true because we will be on our way to becoming compost ourselves.

I hope that all of you were taught at home and in school that civilized society has certain moral standards and obligations to other members and future members of the society . We do want a better and brighter future for our families now and for generations to come. Nuff said….

Back to composting now,  it in it’s raw form is nothing more than simply placing things is a pile to let it rot.  What is actually happening is a complex biological process designed to insure that the process of life can continue. What  happens is that bacteria and microorganisms turn dead plants and animals into humus which contains essential nutrients and organic matter that enriches the soil allowing plants to grow and feed all the creatures of our planet.

Building A Compost Pile

The simple formula for building a compost pile is  30 Parts carbon material 1 part nitrogen plus moisture plus time.

Carbon material is what is considered brown materials dried leaves , wood chips,newspaper scraps etc..

Nitrogen is usually what you call green materials, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, weeds, vegetables, these are what help feed the bacteria that digest the brown materials.

Moisture is necessary to  allow the bacteria to move around as  well as providing oxygen for the process to take place. For a fat composting to take place you will need to manage your pile and you can have compost in as little as 6 to 8 weeks. An un-managed pile can take up to 24 months or more depending on weather conditions and type of materials to produce any measurable compost..

Here are the steps to set up a managed compost pile. This assumes you will have gathered enough materials to build the pile all at once.

Hot Composting  (Managed  Compost Pile)

  • Add a 3″ to 4″layer of twigs on the bottom to allow air circulation
  • Place a layer of brown material about 4″ to 6″ then add a layer of green material about 3″ thick and moisten the pile.
  • Add another 6″ of brown material  then 3″ of green material then add more water.
  • Continue this process till you pile is a minimum of one cubic yard 3′ x 3′ x 3′ this is critical or you will not be able to contain enough heat for the fast acting bacteria that is needed for quick decomposition.
  • After 2 days check the center of the pile the temperature should be between  115 and 140 degrees use a compost thermometer never thrust your hand into an active compost pile the temperatures can reach 150 to 160 degrees or more.
  • Monitor the temperature every other day and when the temperature start to drop below 130 degrees you will need to turn the pile. Take the materials from the outside and bottom and move them to the center of the pile this will allow oxygen and un-decomposed material to feed the hot temp bacteria. Also moisten the pile as you turn it you do not want is being water logged but should feel like a rung out sponge.
  • Continue monitoring the temperature every 2 or 3 days and when the center temperature starts to drop below 119 degrees after you have turned it then continue to turn the pile every 2 weeks or so this will help to finish off the compost you will also notice that the compost has reduced in mass by 25% to 45% of it’s original volume.

When the compost looks dark and has an earthy smell it is ready for use usually 6 to 8 weeks, You can begin adding it to your planting beds and cover the unused portion to keep rain from leaching out the nutrients. This is the process to follow if you want compost as quick as possible.

You will ultimately  decide how often you are willing to turn and monitor your pile and that will determine how quickly you will have compost. If you smell unpleasant odors it is because you have to much nitrogen materials add more brown materials such as dried leaves or torn up newspaper and this will correct the problem

If you would like to get a very good tutorial on composting and many aspects of gardening I would suggest you check out Master Gardening Weekly This is a gardening membership site but they offer a 2 week  trial membership for just $1 so you can see what they offer.

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About the author

Glenn Bronner

Glenn Bronner is a professional groundskeeper with over 45 years of horticultural experience. Glenn is a published author of hundreds of articles on gardening and gardening related subjects.
Glenn gardens in zone 5 in the Chicagoland area.

You may visit him at
http://www.glenns-garden.com
http://thewoodlandgarden.com
Hanging Out On Google+

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