The Smelly on Composting…




There is no doubt in my mind that we live in a society of extreme waste, and I believe most of you would agree.  We waste everything from water to food, and we’re filling landfills at an extraordinary pace.  However there is a movement among us to recycle what waste we can, and us gardeners are playing a big part.

I was taught by my “naturalist” parents at a very young age that almost everything we throw in our trash can be recycled, including our organic waste!  The art of composting has is something that I’ve carried with me for quite some time and I put it to good use today. That said I thought I would put together a quick post with some composting “tips” that I’ve learned over the years, so here they are:

Build or buy a compost bin:

Just throwing your organic waste, yard waste, etc…into a big pile is messy and hard to maintain.  I also find that if I just have a big pile of “garbage” things get in there that really shouldn’t. A compost bin can be square or round, and pretty much any size you want.  They can be made from a variety of materials, such as, wire fencing, pressure treated lumber, bricks or stones, etc…  If you’re limited on space or if you have a small amount of waste to compost, you might consider buying a compact, plastic composting barrel.  Whatever you use make sure that the pile will be able to breath, as compost needs oxygen to break down (very important).

My bin of choice is old wooden shipping pallets.  They are natural wood, perfect size (48” square), easily acquired, AND they allow the pile to breath well!!

Organic Material to Add

There are 3 types of materials to add to your newly built bin.  Brown yard waste, like dried leaves, twigs, straw, pine needles, wood chips, and manure, green yard waste like, grass clippings and fresh leaves, fruit and vegetable trimmings, and weeds, and finally organic table scraps. Remember to never compost meat or dairy products, diseased plants, or plants treated with any type of herbicides. Each layer should be thoroughly soaked with water to speed decomposition.

Quick hints: First, I like to separate out some of the brown matter such as twigs and wood chips as they tend to decompose at a much slower rate, and I don’t like separating them out while using my compost.  Next, be sure to shake all of the soil from the roots of any plants put into the pile, but be sure to sprinkle the pile with some soil! And finally, I like to add some newspaper, yes inks used today are non-toxic and the paper is a biodegradable “brown material”.

Turn, Turn, Turn

And now the tough part!  I let mew compost sit for a week or so, and then start turning.  Be sure to mix those “brown” and “green” materials together well.  Make sure your adding liquids as you turn the pile, not to much though.

Quick hints: First this is when I like to mix in my manure.  The nutrients from manure can be added a couple different ways. One way is to buy some solid manure and simply mix it in. Another way however is to brew what I like to call MOOPOO tea you can check it out here,  The MOOPOO tea works great since you need to add liquid to your pile at this point as well.

Sifting Your Pile

And finally your compost is ready to be gathered and used, but first it should be sifted out to get rid of and pesky stones, wood chips (that I separate in the beginning), and anything else that may not have decomposed or simply will not decompose.  Let the finishe product “cure” for a week or so and voilà, your growing organic!!!

Quick hint: The best way I’ve found to sift is to staple a wire screen to a wooden frame, about 3’x5’.  Set the screen and frame over your wheel barrel, and sift away.   

There are many fantastic guides to composting, and honestly once you get the pile “cooking” nature takes over for the most part.  Using compost that’s done right will enhance all plantings, mulchings, and overall landscapes.


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