The Q&A Archives: composting

Question: I want to start a compost pile. I plan to build compost bins, how do I go about doing this and do I need to biuld a bin with holes in it. how do I start the process and how long before I can use the compost. thank you Jackie

Answer: You can compost in any manner of ways; simply make a pile without rigid sides; build an enclosure out of wood, or use a plastic bin. If you make your own, use cedar or redwood (they last longest) and use chicken wire or hardware cloth for the bottom 8-12" of the structure to allow air to enter the bin. There are many bins available at garden centers if you decide to go the plastic route. All compost bins work best with air holes (although there are some on the market without - this is called anerobic decomposition. You'll find a wet, smelly mess if there are not air holes in your compost bin!)

You'll need both green and brown material - green for nitrogen and brown for carbon. Grass clippings, dead annuals, and anything else that's green will supply nitrogen. Dried leaves are excellent, but failing a supply of leaves, you could use newspaper for the carbon portion of your compost pile. Tear the sheets into 2-3" strips and they'll decompose faster. I'd start by tossing green material into a pile, adding brown material and topping it off with a few shovelfuls of soil (or compressed compost) to add micro-organisms which will speed the decomposition process. Water it down well. Wait a few days to a week and turn everything to mix it together. Water again if necessary. (You want the material to be damp but not soggy wet). Remember to turn the contents of your compost pile every week to 10 days, moving the warm center to the sides and the cold sides to the center so everything breaks down completely.

Compost takes anywhere from a few months to a full year, depending upon the size of organic materials you put into the bin. You can screen the compost prior to use, tossing the larger pieces back into the pile and using the well decomposed parts in your garden.

Best wishes with your compost bin!

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