Methods of Composting

Backyard composting is an easy way to make use of yard and kitchen waste. A proper mix of brown and green organic materials coupled with the right amount of water and air can transform a pile of waste into dark brown crumbly compost in as little as three months.

Step 1: Select your spot. A dry shady spot, with a water supply nearby is best. Locate your pile at least two feet from any structure to keep composting critters at bay. Ideally your compost pile should be three feet square by three feet deep to allow for optimal heat buildup in the center of the pile.

Step 2: Choose your structure. Yard trimmings and vegetable food waste can be composted in a well managed free standing pile. An enclosed bin will help keep unwanted critters out of the mix. Homemade bins can be constructed from scrap wood, chicken wire, fencing or even old garbage cans with holes punched into the sides and bottom. Readymade bins or tumblers are available at your local hardware or garden store.

Step 3: Prepare your pile. Chop or shred any large pieces of matter. Begin with a two inch layer of brown material such as dry leaves, twigs, saw dust, fire place ashes, hair, fur, shredded newspaper, cardboard and even cotton or wool rags. Add a six inch layer of green material including grass and plant trimmings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and tea bags. Top with an inch of finished compost or soil. Continue to build your pile in lasagna like layers, keeping the mix at a ratio of three parts green to one part brown. Add an inch of soil or finished compost for each eight to nine inches of organic material.

Step 4: Add water and air. The compost pile should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. It should also be light and airy enough to allow circulation throughout the pile. Use a pitch fork or compost turner to lightly mix and aerate your pile.

Step 5: Add brown and green organic materials to the pile as they become available. Mix the new materials into the center of the pile where they will decompose faster. Stop adding to your pile once it reaches the ideal size and start a new pile following the same procedure, if desired.

Step 6: Turn your pile every two weeks or whenever the pile’s temperature begins to drop. Move dry material from the edges of the pile into the center. Add water when necessary to maintain proper moisture throughout the pile. If your pile starts to smell chances are it is too moist or is not getting enough air circulation. Add dry brown organic material to combat this problem. If your pile is not heating up in the middle it may be too small or too dry. Add green organic material to correct this issue.

Once your pile has been transformed into a uniform dark crumbly product with a pleasant earthy smell it is ready to use. Add it to your garden, spread it on your lawn or share it with your neighbors.

Backyard composting is a great way to add nutrients back into the soil while reducing the amount of organic waste added to your local land fill.

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