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COMPOST: What is it and how to make it?

COMPOST: WHAT IS IT? Compost is nothing more than a sped up decomposition process.

WHAT DO YOU ADD?

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“ IF YOU EAT IT, IT WILL DECOMPOSE”

The bigger and more solid it is the longer it takes to break down. This is a great experiment for your children. I even add old socks, wool and pieces of non-reusable towels at  the last stage on the cycle of life. All of the items on the DO NOT COMPOST side of THIS sign are there for one of two reasons: takes too long to break down or spreading of disease and weeds (Which happens if the pile does NOT get hot enough).

WILL IT SMELL? Only if you do not ‘cover’ every addition. The breakdown of decomposed vegetative matter does not smell, it just smells like wet soil.

DO YOU NEED A PILE? No it is not necessary, only if you have cats and or dogs that dig up the stuff. A pile is a nice easy neat way to deal with your kitchen scraps but over time the soil UNDER your pile gets very rich from the waste leaching into the soil and the earthworm castings a pile invites. Earthworms are natures decomposers as are ants, they break down the pile and leave when the decomposition is done.

I like to compost in place. I dig a trench about 2-3 feet wide and the same deep. As I dump the kitchen scraps I pull the soil over it and cover with leaves. After a few months (in warm wet weather) it will be broken down and over time the soil turns rich, fertile and brown.

Pallete compostThis is a pallet compost pile built with shipping pallets available for free or a nominal fee. This makes an attractive place to dump your scraps if you choose to make a pile. It ‘repurposes’ what might otherwise go to the dump and your pile gets a nice place where air circulates speeding up the decomposition process.

Below is an in depth explanation of the decomposition process. Keep in mind that decomposition WILL happen without ANY human intervention, the question is one of TIME: how much time do I want this pile to take to rot? In Texas if a pile is well balanced and turned often you will have rich, friable, black soil in three months.

MORE COMPOST 101

Nature creates compost all the time without human intervention. But gardeners can step in and speed up the composting process by creating the optimal conditions for decomposition: Air + Water + Carbon +Nitrogen = Compost

Air. Like most living things, the bacteria that decompose organic matter, and the other creatures that make up the compost ecosystem, need air. Compost scientists say compost piles need porosity—the ability for air to move into the pile. I like to think of porosity in terms of fluffiness. A fluffy pile has plenty of spaces—or pores—for air to move about. A flat matted pile of grass clippings does not.  Occasionally turning your pile re-fluffs the material, moves new material into the center, and helps improve air flow into the pile, says Craig Cogger, Ph.D., extension soil scientist at Washington State University.

Water. Compost microbes also need the right amount of water. Too much moisture reduces airflow, causes temperatures to fall, and can make the pile smell; too little water slows decomposition and prevents the pile from heating. Conventional wisdom says that “compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge”, says Abigail Maynard, Ph.D., agricultural scientist at the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station.

Carbon ingredients. The microbes that break down organic matter use carbon as an energy source. Ingredients with a high percentage of carbon are usually dry and brown or yellow in color. The most common high-carbon ingredients are leaves, straw, and corn stalks. Sometimes people call these ingredients browns.

Nitrogen ingredients. Microbes need nitrogen for the proteins that build their tiny bodies. Ingredients high in nitrogen are generally green moist plant matter, such as leaves, or an animal by-product, such as manure. These ingredients are called greens, but in reality they can be green, brown, and all colors in between.

C/N ratio. In order for a compost pile to decompose efficiently, you need to create the right ratio of carbon (C) to nitrogen (N) (C/N). Piles with too much nitrogen tend to smell, because the excess nitrogen converts into an ammonia gas. Carbon-rich piles break down slowly because there’s not enough nitrogen for the microbe population to expand. An ideal compost pile should have a 30:1 C/N ratio. Grass clippings alone have about a 20:1 C/N ratio. Adding one part grass clippings, or other green, to two parts dead leaves, or other brown, will give you the right mix.

Compost 101 is from: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/composting-101

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