Few of the gardeners that compost realize that this method of treating household waste is actually an exercise in good citizenship. Instead, the majority of them think of it as a nuisance. With today’s attitude of “Thinking Green”, composting rates high on the you-can-do list, because a major environmental problem is being corrected by disposing of the millions of tons of solid waste in this manner. Lawn and plant wastes, table scraps, dust from the vacuum cleaner, and many of the other household materials we throw into our rubbish containers can go into the compost pile. Decomposing in the compost pile, they serve a healthy helpful purpose instead of contributing to the overfilling of our landfills.
The number of various materials that will compost and can be added to your pile is amazing. They include most dead rodents, bones, table wastes, lawn clippings, leaves, weeds, plants removed from the garden, hair, wood shavings, sawdust, spoiled grains, clippings from woolen clothes, and countless other substances that originally came from other living organism. Starchy and sugary products, spoiled cereals, jellies, fruit and potato peelings as well as other similar materials supply bacteria which provides the compose the energy foods they need to create humus. Unfortunately these materials lack nitrogen, which is very essential. Adding fertilizer to the compost pile will make up for this.
Fats, greases, and waxes have traditionally been banned from the compost heap. The reason being was that these items prevented the decay of the other organic matter within the pile. It is true that large amounts of these fatty materials will retard the breaking down of some of the organic materials in the compost pile. However, small amounts may prove to be advantageous. Waxes, fats and grease, when added in small amounts near the end of the composting process, have proven valuable to the formation of humus. Humus is one of the most valuable forms of organic matter in gardening.
It is important to keep your compost pile dry. A soggy compost pile will not work. When selecting your location for composting, choose a well drained, level location with light shade. Too much sun can prove to be a disadvantage. The heat generated by the decaying materials can reach temperatures as high as 150 degrees, so constant direct sun light is not needed. Additionally the heat from the summer sun can get high enough to kill the bacterium that is developing near the surface of the pile. This bacteria is important in the composting process.
When starting your compost pile, sprinkling the ground first with fine limestone serves as a good base. The pile should consist of alternating layers of organic materials and good gardening soils. Each layer should be about four inches thick. Every other layer should be lightly sprinkled with a commercial fertilizer with a minimum of 5-10-5 rating. Adding a light sprinkle of lime to the layer that does not get the fertilizer will improve the quality of the compost pile and aid in the composting process. Purely organic fertilizers are not very useful during this stage because they themselves have not been broken down and do not contain many healthful nutrients. If you still elect to include organic fertilizers, dried blood, fish emulsions, and urine are preferable.Each layer should also be moistened with water. Make sure you do not make them soggy wet. Approximately one month after your compost heap has been started, if the outside temperature is above freezing, the pile should be turned over and over to thoroughly mix the layers together. This will release the excess carbon dioxide that builds up in the pile and slows up the bacterial building action. It will also provide more oxygen for the microorganisms use. If the pile appears dry during the mixing moisten it. Turn the pile every thirty days or so thereafter. In most situations with regular outside temperature of 70 degrees or higher the compost should be ready in three months. During the winter months it will take three or four months longer.
I know composting requires some physical work. But look at it this way. You are helping to save the environment and also getting exercise and burning calories. Isn’t that a win-win combination? Composting offers an excellent pro environment solution and a way to grow a healthy beautiful garden. Everything you need is most likely already at your disposal. Isn’t this something you could be doing?
The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener
Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting