5 Tips for Successful Composting
Get the Most From Your Compost
1. Use a Compost Bin
Compost bins arc a space efficient, attractive and relatively trouble-free way to produce compost. Many types of bins are available including commercially available freestanding wood or resin containers, rotating bins and larger bins lined with concrete blocks. Purchase or build a bin that meets your composting needs and fits in your space. Whatever bin you choose, be sure it has aeration holes on the sides and drainage on the bottom.
2. Gather Plant Materials
Home gardens of all types provide a bounty of compostable plant materials. Garden cleanups, pruning and deadheading yield large amounts of leaves and stems. Get in the habit of gathering and using this valuable material to stock your compost bin. 1 suggest not adding food waste, kitchen scraps and the like to your bin as they attract rodents and decompose at a different rate than plant materials.
3. Process Plant Materials for Rapid Decomposition
Once the plant materials are gathered they require some simple processing to assure they decompose properly in the pile. The most important step is to use a pair of loppers or pruners to chop the material into smaller pieces. This simple step will greatly increase the speed of decomposition.
Fall leaves are another fantastic material to add to the pile. For best results shred the leaves using a mulching mower or leaf blower/ vacuum. This will ensure the leaves do not form a mat that can block airflow in the pile. Woody twigs and stems need to be cut into very small pieces using a pair of loppers. Avoid large woody stems unless you have access to a chipper shredder.
Weeds and garden materials are fine to use, however, do not place weeds that have gone to seed in the pile.
4. Provide Meal Conditions in the Bin
It’s important to remember that a compost bin is a living system composed of bacteria, fungi and a huge variety of insects, worms and other tiny creatures. These beneficial, industrious organisms carry out the hard work of breaking down plant materials into compost. Our job is to provide them with the ideal conditions to do their work: air, moisture and food. We do this by properly processing a wide variety of plant materials.
Gently turn the pile (for larger bins) in order to move dry materials to the center of the pile where biological activity is greatest. Turning also pumps fresh air into the pile. I f your pile is very dry, add more fresh green materials and, if needed, water the pile.
5. Apply Compost Promptly
Fully decomposed compost will be resemble coffee grounds, have a pleasant, woodsy aroma and have no identifiable plant materials. Apply this compost directly to your planting bed or, for vegetable beds, sift the compost to remove any debris.
Compost need not be fully decomposed in order to use. Semi-de-composed compost will have a few recognizable plant materials surrounded by more fully decomposed materials. This material is ideal for spreading around perennial plantings and woody, out of the way areas of your garden. As semi-decomposed compost is very biologically active, it will continue to decompose in place, providing a significant boost to plant vigor.