7 Tips That Work For DIY Making Compost
Authors: Autumn Koukal, Patricia Bass
Composting has been around since the creation. Nature is a wonderful teacher of composting. Just check out her ways on your next hike through woods, or stroll around the block. Look under the scrubs and off the beaten path. You will see all sorts of signs of natural composting. A fallen tree, the bark starting to crumble off, lichens growing along the underside, the branches getting brittle and breaking off into smaller pieces. That’s composting, mother nature style.
If you are overwhelmed by the big hardware stores’ plethora of products aimed at composting, clueless about where to start or what equipment to get, or if the words ‘activator’ ‘aerators’ and ‘accelerators’ make you start to worry about what exactly is going on: Relax.
Here are some tips for DIY composting for the beginner and making time in the garden more productive.
1. Start Small. If you don’t have a tumblercomposter
, or straw bales, or even a three sided bin, start out with two somewhat clear areas in the yard. The first one is for the ‘fuel’—the dry stuff that eventually ends up in the compost pile. The second one is the compost pile itself. It’s roughly 5 feet in diameter and about 3 feet high in the middle.
2. Don’t Sweat It. Testing the soil, checking for acidity or alkalinity, pouring money into compost accelerators, purchasing earthworms or beautiful garden composting bins are not required for results, these are activities which enhance the process of making compost in some way.
3. Undercover Lover. Whether you compost in a wood bin
or just a pile, covering your compost helps keep in the moisture, helps the process continue at a bit faster pace and helps keeps your neighbors placid.
4. Smaller is better. Egg shells, bread heels, vegetable stalks—kitchen refuse in general, will degrade quicker if it is broken down into smaller pieces. My husband wants to find an old working blender at a garage sale and puree the kitchen stuff, but I just crush up the shells, break up the stalks and tear up the bread and banana peels. It works.
5. Chunky is Okay. If the kitchen waste doesn’t get broken up before going into the composter
or heap, it’s okay. Chunks of organic material seems to be a beacon for worms and sowbugs and billions of tiny micro-organisms. Just keep ‘em covered, because the uncovered kitchen refuse does send out wafts of odor. An uncovered composting bin or pile can become too dry which increases the time needed for the ingredients to make compost. Turning and aerating also helps speed decomposition and reduce smell.
6. Keep What You Reap. All of it. All your grass clippings, all your prunings, all your leaves. Sans weeds. It takes a very hot pile and a bit more practice to compost the weeds. This is what is in my second pile mentioned above. The dry stuff. It’s for layering.
7. Equipment. There are tools
especially for turning compost. But a hand held shovel, spade and an “apple picker” (tined horse manure scoop) are also fine. A multi-tined fork would work just as well. A water source is mandatory. Gloves,wheel barrow or cart to move materials to the bin and finished compost away are helpful but not required.
Start with a layer of chicken,horse or cow manure and wet it, layer on the dry stuff, then a layer of green clipping (freshly mown lawn) if you have it, then another layer of wet and a layer of dry. Soak, cover, and leave it. After a couple of weeks, take the tined fork to scoop and flip, then replace the compost into the pile, water and cover again. If you have chosen a bin use the tool each time materials are added or at least weekly to keep the compost cooking. In about 3 months, you should have a great addition to your soil that you just work in with the spade or hand held shovel.
In the 15 years composting experience of the author, there have been some failures, but many more successes using the seven tips for DIY making compost. No matter how small or simple just remember;in the words of www.compostingplace.com
: enrich the earth;everyone can enjoy composting today!