Composting Is Easy And Well Worth It

Experienced gardeners know that good compost is like “black gold”. Nutrient rich and capable of holding moisture, compost mixed into garden soil will help plants thrive.

It’s easy to make your own compost. Just layer organic materials—garden clippings, dry leaves, kitchen vegetable scraps, shredded paper—and a dash of soil to create a concoction that turns into humus, the best soil builder around.

Composting can be done by gardeners of all experience levels, and you get compost in one to three months during warm weather. Four ingredients are required for fast-cooking hot compost: nitrogen, carbon, air, and water. Together, these items feed microorganisms, which speed up the process of decay.

To create your own organic hot-compost heap, wait until you have enough materials to make a pile at least 3 feet deep. Then, to ensure an even composition of materials, create alternating 4- to 8-inch-deep layers of green materials (kitchen scraps, fresh leaves, coffee grounds) and brown materials (dried leaves, shredded paper, untreated sawdust).

Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge. Don’t add too much water—otherwise the microorganisms in your pile will become waterlogged and drown. If this happens, your pile will rot instead of compost.

Check to see if your pile is decomposing by monitoring temperature. Check the temperature of the pile with a thermometer, or simply reach into the middle of the pile with your hand.

During the growing season, you should provide the pile with oxygen by turning it once a week with a garden fork. This is key to keeping the process going. The best time to turn the compost is when the center of the pile feels warm or the thermometer reads between 130 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Stirring up the pile helps it cook faster and prevents material from becoming matted down and developing a bad odor. At this point, the layers have served their purpose of creating equal amounts of green and brown materials throughout the pile, so stir thoroughly.

When the compost no longer gives off heat and becomes dry, brown, and crumbly, it’s fully cooked and ready to feed to the garden.

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