Compost happens

first_imgOnce the pile has stopped heating, allow it to mature for two tothree months. Materials in the compost can be toxic to plants ifyou don’t let it mature. This can be particularly problematic ifyou use the compost in a potting mix.When the compost has matured, add it to your garden or lawn. Useit as mulch, or add it to a potting mix. Or steep it in a porousbag for 30 minutes to several hours and then water your plantswith the nutrient-rich compost tea.(George Boyhan is an Extension Service horticulturist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.) Don’t use fresh sawdust, particularly from olderpressure-treated lumber. (Older wood treatments used highly toxicarsenic compounds.) Fresh sawdust takes a long time to breakdown. It can use up nitrogen, stopping the composting.Don’t put meats, bones, grease and similar kitchen waste inthe pile. They can smell bad and attract vermin. Grease can blockair flow.Don’t add cat or dog manure. It will smell bad and maypresent a disease problem. Manures from horses, cows and chickensare OK, but handle them carefully. Neighbors might not appreciatebarnyard smells. Chicken litter, especially, has a strong ammoniaodor. By George BoyhanUniversity of GeorgiaCompost happens. Using microorganisms to decompose organic matterinto a nutrient-rich soil amendment is a great way to reducewaste and put it to good use. It happens one way or another, in a passive or active process.In the passive mode, just pile up yard and kitchen waste and letit break down naturally. In active composting, turn the pileregularly to speed up the process and keep it going.The drawbacks to passive composting are that it can take up totwo years and, if the pile doesn’t get enough oxygen, it canstart breaking down without it. That will stink.This often occurs if the pile has too much moisture and drainspoorly, particularly in times of heavy rain.Easy rotterThe upside to passive composting is it’s easy. Over time, withpassive composting, rich compost forms underneath the pile. Toaccess the compost, just remove the fresh organic matter on topand dig out the compost.Composting can be a continuous process, with new materials addedto the pile as they become available. Or, you can do it inbatches, with the proper ratio of materials combined and turnedregularly until the compost is finished.To build a proper compost pile, use the right mix of materials tostart the decomposition and keep the process going. Commercialcomposters refer to the proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, usuallyin the 25:1 to 40:1 range.Brown and greenAn easy way to look at this mix is the blend of brown and greenmaterials. Brown materials are rich in carbon and relatively lowin nitrogen. These include leaves, pine bark, straw and chippedor shredded wood. Leaves, twigs and branches will compost fasterif you shred or chip them before adding them to the pile.Green materials are rich in nitrogen — grass clippings, kitchenscraps, manures.When you form a compost pile, make 80 percent of the volume brownand 20 percent green for the best composting. Mix thesethoroughly to begin the process.Turning a compost pile every three to seven days makes theprocess go quickly to completion. But it’s not required.Hot’s rightYou can be sure the process is ongoing by the heat in the pile.If there’s no heat, it isn’t composting. After four to six weeks,the heat-generating process will dissipate, followed by eight to12 weeks during which the compost will mature.No composting structure is required, but a bin can help keepthings tidy. It’s easy to build one with lumber and wire.Store-bought bins and tumblers can keep materials together andaid the turning process.Some noteworthy don’ts:last_img

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