The Q&A Archives: Compost bin

Question: My neighbor has built a compost bin, he throws food scraps in it and he is harvesting earthworms to make the soil rich-he is growing things in his garden at 3-4 times the pace and size of anything in my garden. Can you give me any info on composting?

Answer: Ah ha! So you see the results of plants growing in compost enriched soil! Good for you. There's nothing better than making your own 'black gold' and amending your garden soil with nutrient rich compost. Compost happens all by itself but you can control the process with a little attention and your compost will happen more quickly. In general, composting requires some brown material rich in carbon such as old leaves or even torn up shreds of newspaper, and some green material rich in nitrogen such as fresh veggie scraps or fresh lawn clippings. The material should be slightly damp like a wrung out sponge. The process is faster with additional green material, but may become smelly without enough brown material. The process is fastest in hot weather. Adding as you go should be sufficient to produce compost without adding worms. Unless they are red worms (manure worms) the worms would likely cook to death in the compost when it "heats up" in the decomposition process.

You can compost in a simple heap or use a compost bine. Simply add what ever organic matter you have, including vegetable or fruit peelings, trimmings from the garden, grass clippings, fallen leaves, and so on. Some people also add coffee grinds and filters and egg shells, and cleanings from the cages of pet bunnies or chickens. Just be sure to avoid adding grease, meat, milk, and pet wastes. Try to keep a balance of green and brown materials and be sure to turn your compost on a weekly basis by moving the hot center to the edges of the bin and the cool material in the edges into the center of the bin or pile. Over time the materials will decompose and you'll have your own supply of black gold. Best wishes with your project!

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