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September 22, 2011

Do you compost?

I technically started about a couple of weeks ago.  After installing my kitchen garden this spring and bringing in pickup loads of compost, I came to the conclusion that I needed to make my own stuff  for future gardening seasons.  My goal is to try to get enough for a good top-dressing for all eight of my raised beds each planting season.

Essentially composting is the act of speeding up the natural decaying process of organic matter so you can create a supply of nutrient rich fertilizer and soil amendments.  For those of you living on a farm with a nice supply of horse, cow, pig or chicken poo – I’m jealous.  Manure makes for a great compost ingredient.  But since I do lots of yard and garden activities, I have plenty of waste to use for composting.  In the past we’ve hauled the majority of garden waste out to the municipal compost pile so this will now save us a trip….btw, people why do you take dog poo out there?!

I’m not a compost expert, but here’s a run down of what I’ve learned to create a home supply of compost. 

1. You need a compost  bin or pile.  This can be a fancy-schmancy compost tumbler like this one or a not so purty area like mine.  Really you just need a spot that gets sunlight but not too much, is out-of-the-way and can be watered.  You’ll have best luck with a pile that is able to be a minimum of 3 feet deep & wide and 3 feet tall, but no more than 5 ft each way (unless you are turning with a tractor or some kind of equipment). 

I went for a two-bin setup so I have one bin for fresh waste and one for composted or mostly composted matter.  I probably spent a total of $30 for stakes and chicken wire to create a 8-ft wide bin with two 4’x4′ areas.  Wood makes a much nicer looking bin, but I wasn’t willing to shuck out the cash for bin construction this time around.  I’ve seen some great ones created from recycled pallets, but be mindful of the fact that these could leach toxins into your compost and may be suitable for non-edible gardening  uses only. 

Staking required a hammer and a shirtless man.  And the chicken wire required some zip ties and approximately 3.5 hands.

Tyler hammering stake for compost pile

2.  You need organic matter.

For your pile you need to add brown stuff (Carbon) and green stuff (Nitrogen).  The ideal ratio is 30:1 (C:N).  Carbon materials includes things like leaves, shredded paper, hedge clipping and sawdust.  Nitrogen materials include things like grass clippings, weeds and plant scraps from the kitchen.  With the abundance of fallen leaves, fall is a great time to start a compost pile as it can be challenging to find carbon materials at other times of the year.  Be sure to leave out diseased plant materials and any weeds that have gone to seed.  And the smaller the particle the faster it breaks down, so it never hurts to hit stuff with your mulching lawn mower first. 

You don’t have to follow any spectacular guidelines to create compost, though certain practices may help the process.  Building the pile in layers and turning often can ensure even and faster decomposition.  In addition to having a nice mix of brown and green materials, the pile needs turned from the inside out to allow air in.  A pitchfork will do the job for that.

 Moisture is also needed for the beneficial microbes who are busy decomposing your materials. If you don’t get adequate rainfall, you can give the pile a good soaking with your garden hose.


3.  You need time.

If you stay on top of your composting duties, your pile could be ready in 2 to 4 months.  The less attentive you are, the longer it will probably take to decompose completely.  I’m hoping I can get a batch before the first big snow cover.  Can’t wait either, I love the smell of compost!

I’m thinking I might need some luck on my side for this project.  Who knows maybe I’ll be the next Decomp Queen…that’s cool right?!

This has been my main source for learning about compost.  Can’t ever go wrong with your state extension info.

Sharing with A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. 🙂

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2011 12:38 am

    Yip we compost…nothing like that gorgeous black earth to grow our veggies in. We have 3 bins and a wormery which takes care of all green refuse and garden trimmings.


  1. Simple Lives Thursday #64 | GNOWFGLINS

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