Compost should smell and feel good. Photo by Amanda Jarrett
Loving Compost - Compost Benefits - The Layering Process & Making Compost - Where to Place Compost Bins - What Can I Put In The Compost? - Fresh Manure - Compost Pile Problems - Types of Compost Bins
Compost is a soil conditioner. It fixes all kinds of soil issues, turning hard impenetrable clay into a much lighter and plant friendly clay loam. Alternately, sandy soils become more sponge-like holding giving them the ability to hold onto nutrients and water.
Compost increases and replenishes soil nutrients while maintaining soil health. It is one of the very best things add to your soil as it provides plants with the best of all the plant foods: humus. There's no need to apply fertilizers as compost is nature's own form of fertilizer. It also conditions the soil by making it more friable (crumbly), buffers soil pH, and reduces soil toxins. Plants and all those beneficial bacteria, fungi and all organisms big and small, love it.
The Layering Process and Making Compost
Consists of green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) layers:
Compost Pile Problems
Nothing is happening; decomposition is a no-go:
Where to Place Compost Bins
Place in a convenient location preferably with enough room to manoeuvre a wheelbarrow. It should receive at least 6 hours of full sun per day helps to aid the decomposition process. A nearby faucet is certainly handy. Set the compost bin on the ground, not on paving stones, concrete, brick or tarmac as organisms are needed to migrate from the ground below. It also keeps things a tad warmer due to the thermal heat of the earth.
What Can I Put In The Compost?
Composting isn’t rocket science, but there are a few things you should know about the process. Anything you add to your compost decomposes faster if it's cut into small pieces. Use any uncooked vegetable scraps and plant parts from the garden unless they are diseased, insect ridden or bear seeds. Avoid meat, dairy and cooked food.
Diseased, Infested Plants and Weeds
One of the big issues with adding plants and their parts in the compost is the problem of contamination. Diseased and insect ridden plant parts, invasive weeds and weed seeds, don't become inert unless they are 'cooked' in a hot compost with temperatures that reach 57 to 71 degrees C (135 to 160 degrees F) for at least few days. Most garden composts don't get that hot for that length of time, so it's best to err on the safe side and don't add anything that could infest or infect.
Fresh manure should not be used on the garden but you can compost it. Avoid putting too much in at one time; a layer of a few inches should do. Manures help speeds things up the decomposition process and once composted, it's suitable to add to the garden.
TYPES OF COMPOST BINS
Certainly you can discard vegetative debris in a pile in an obscure spot in the garden and wait for nature to do its own thing, but if you want to speed up the process, a 3 ft by 3 ft bin is the perfect size for the magic to appear. Compost bins or piles that are too small tend not to heat up, while ones that are too large are difficult to aerate and turn. There are many types of compost receptacles available. Convenience, ease of use and being rodent proof are things to look for.
Plastic Rodent Proof Bins are generally rodent proof and work well in the home garden as they take up little space and are relatively unobtrusive. Most municipalities offer deals on plastic, rodent proof compost bins. As with all covered bins, you must remember to add water when needed.
Compost Tumblers were invented to take the chore out of turning the pile. The rolling drum style sits on a stand and is turned with a hand crank. It may become difficult to turn when full, especially if it's a big one. Another type is the ball- like ground tumbler. Just roll it on the ground to mix the contents, but watch out for steep hills!
Feeling handy? Make your own compost bin. Don’t use pressure treated lumber or pallets, as they contain arsenic. Untreated pallets don’t last as long as cedar or redwood, but they are generally inexpensive and sometimes are free. Another option is sturdy wire mesh such as hardware cloth, chicken wire with staked firmly into the ground. Zap strap the ends together to make a circle.
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