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Making and Using Compost

Updated on January 8, 2013

Joining the "green" society.

Home style composting is not at all a new invention. Yesteryear if it didn't go into the pig bucket it went into the big pile at the farthest corner of the yard or garden. In the past everything had its uses.

Twenty-five or so years ago the "modern" composter, the black or dark green contraption made of recycled plastic, came to be fashionable. They were cheap then and are still cheap now. With a few minor changes the ones available now are still the same. They work and do exactly what they were meant to do; Compost anything organic.

Composting is natures way of recycling. When we compost we do just what Mother Nature does, only a little faster. Composting is really nothing more than accelerating the process. Bacteria and microorganisms break down organic matter and produce food for plant life.

What to compost:

Just about anything organic can be composted. Some things break down faster then others. This is where a little know-thy-composting-system comes in handy.

Lets discuss this from an average sized household's point of view. You have just bought your first composter . You've done the little assembly that is required, have found the perfect spot behind the garden shed, and loosened up the base soil. You're all set. You are planning on composting kitchen waste, leaves, grass clippings and weeds and such, from your veggy plot.

Kitchen waste is easy enough : all vegetable and fruit matter can go into the composter. Mellon rinds, banana peels, egg shells, coffee grinds, tea bags can all be included.

Yard wasteis also easy when following some common sense. For instance grass clippings, and fall leaves even if shredded will clump together and if there is no air circulation it will become a stinky moldy mess. So only sprinkle a thin layer into the composter, then add a thin layer of soil & again kitchen waste. Hose it down with a couple of gallons of water then the layering can be done again always making sure the soil is the top layer.

(In the fall, once the veggie garden is put to bed for the season a great way to dispose of the leaves is to dig a thin layer into the exposed garden soil directly. If you have access to animal manure you can do this at the same time. Most animal manures include straw which will aerate the soil also.)

My Gramps was an avid gardener. According to him everything needed balance. Everything growing is made up of many components. Carbon is one and so is nitrogen. Gramp's rule of thumb was to mix 4 buckets of carbon( stems, leaves,straw,corn leaves, bean vines, small amounts of sawdust, woodchips etc) to 1 bucket of nitrogen(kitchen matter,grass clippings, kelp, algae like pond weeds etc).

What not to include into the compost pile: Dairy, meat product, diseased or bug infested plant matter(burn those), ashes, grass clippings that are from herbicide treated lawns, weeds gone to seed.

Compost trouble shooting:

  • Problem: Bad smell

-lacks air, because of over-watering / solution: add straw & mix to aerate

-lacks air, because too solidly compacted / solution: mix to aerate

-ammonia smell,too much greens / solution: add straw & mix to aerate

  • Problem: Pile doesn't heat up

-nothings happening / solution: mix & turn matter

-lacks moisture / solution: poke holes into the pile & add water

-looks dark & crumbly / solution: if its earthy smelling, compost is done

  • Problem: Animals wanting to get into composter

-nosey cats, dogs, skunks etc. / solution: never add dairy or meat products

  • Problem: Matter in composter doesn't break down

solution: cut or chop pieces of woody composting matter

solution: remove larger chunks

  • Problem: Fruit flies swarming around composter

solution: always cover kitchen scraps with a layer of soil & straw

Tools for composting: Every job is easier with the proper tools. -pitchfork, watering can or hose, long probed compost thermometer,

Using compost:It is a nice feeling being able to spread that first batch of compost that you've "cooked". You can spread all that good compost to existing plants in the garden or under the new ones of the season. Flower and vegetable gardens benefit equally from "new soil". If this is the first time you use your organic compost you will be able to tell the difference in your plants. If your sceptical about how much the plants benefit conduct an experiment. Add compost to half of your garden or flower bed and see.

Warning: remember to use only chemical free clippings. Some chemicals can leave a residue behind even in hot composted soil. Especially if the compost is used in and around a vegetable and fruit garden.

Did You know????

  • The best temperature for compost ranges between 65-75 degrees Celsius or 150-170degrees Fahrenheit
  • Compost increases the ability of soil to retain water.
  • Compost separates soil particles therefore improves soil structure.
  • Compost is the food source for the micro-organisms that live in, and are necessary for soil improvement.
  • Compost regulates soil PH levels that lets plants prosper.
  • Compost provides all the nutrition plants need for vigorous growth.
  • Compost aerates soil which make it easier for roots to grow.
  • The Breweries use their leftovers by making a good quality yet inexpensive compost.

Comments

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    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Winsome, thank you so much for the nice comments.

      kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 

      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Very helpful Zsuzsy Bee. I first learned composting from an old codger at the local nature center. He said, beside air and water, you need 50% of what grows down (leaves,twigs,vines etc. for carbon) and 50% of what grows up (grass clippings plus kitchen veggies etc. for nitrogen.) His simple formula worked, but your article helps explain why it didn't always and tweaking the ratios plus the soil layer is great info as well. I enjoyed your soil recipes too and may I add you look fetching with those pins and measuring tape scarf. =:)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      brsmom68 I tried throwing the kitchen scraps onto the garden but I didn't like the look of it so I went back to composting. If you follow the steps in the hub you will get a good compost to use in the garden too.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • brsmom68 profile image

      Diane Ziomek 

      8 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I had started a compost pile the first summer we moved onto our acreage, only to have it always be too dry. It became infested with ants last summer, which did not impress me at all. I decided that over the winter, I would toss my kitchen scraps directly onto the garden...by spring they will be almost all decomposed. They will be worked into the soil when we cultivate the garden, and hopefully it will loosen up the clay soil some. I love gardening, and am looking forward to a bountiful harvest.

      You have once again written about something that interests many, and will help many as well. Keep up the good work!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      C.S. I have a pile at the very back of the lot too but also have a bin on the go. The bin is twice as fast as the pile but both produce just as great compost.

      Glad you came for a visit. regards Zsuzsy

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 

      9 years ago from NW Indiana

      Spring is just around the corner and this one should start getting more hits. I am not ever using a bin to compost but go the old fashioned route with the pile in the far corner. It takes a little longer to break down but has worked for centuries.

      Your article here is a great guide for anyone who is going to compost and everybody should.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Weeds online! Thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • profile image

      weeds online 

      10 years ago

      thank u for this info, very useful

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Thank you Jeff for taking a look.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Jeff Dahlberg profile image

      Jeff Dahlberg 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      I like how you spelled out the problems and solutions right next to each other. No hunting for the answers. Thanks. Jeff

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Thanks for having a look

      regards Zsuzsy

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      I would love to try this some day, I live in a rented property so don't have much of a chance, but will keep this in mind and follow these great tips. Well done Zsuzsy.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Thanks Isabella! glad you came for a visit.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      10 years ago

      My uncle was an avid composter! Great hub!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Hi Kenny thanks for visiting; and your comment

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      We always had a compost pit till we moved to a flat.

      Great, Green hub!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      O thank you. It will be an honorable linking.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Patty! You may link to all my hubs whenever you would like. I'm honored.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Great Hub, Z! I've linked it through my latest hub and hope you will approve!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Compost makes for a great garden additive. Thanks for taking a look Bob.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      10 years ago from New Brunswick

      great hub composting is an important part of gardening

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Peter the question is what will you use the compost for? The only ashes you should not put into the compost is coal ashes. Leaf ashes should be fine. If you want to use the finished compost in the veggy garden or even under some flowers you should test the pH level as most ashes acidify the soil. Which then can be counter acted by adding a bit of lime or bonemeal . (some plants like acidic soil Blueberries for one potatoes don't mind a little extra either).The pH scale is universal I think, and runs from 1 to 14. 7 being neutral, less than would indicate more acidic soil over 7 more alkaline. Hope this helps

      Zsuzsy

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      What about leaf ashes? I do have a lot of leaves. Last year I composed about half of them burned a quarter and threw away a quarter. The composting took nearly a year. I used a big trash can, not a composter.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Peter! Wood Ashes can be added to the compost but it changes the PH level. It becomes more acidic (which some plant like, but I didn't want to get off on a tangent) Coal ashes can be poisonous if used in veggy garden.

      Do you have a lot of leaves to compost every Year ? Did you try composting them in the small black composter?

      Zs

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Great hub Zsuzsy. I tried composting last year with mixed results. I didn't know about having a soil top layer though. I will give it another shot...I have to do something with all those leaves. I didn't know about the ashes either. Why not ashes?

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile imageAUTHOR

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Thanks for visiting Hector. We're all responsible, to a small part, for the mess that our planet is in. I think it's only right that we try to reverse some of the damage done. If we all do a small bit it will amount to a lot.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • supercibor profile image

      Hector Herrera 

      10 years ago from Dominican Republic

      Thanks for this article. It's a great contribution for saving the planet.

      I really enjoy it. The whole world should read it.

      Hector

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