The Joy of Compost or Compost Happens!
Returning to the earth compostable ingredients is the most natural way to enrich your garden soil. Leaves, grass, spent un-diseased plants, seedless weeds, and non-animal kitchen scraps can be used to build a compost pile. It takes a lot of material, in the correct mix of nitrogen to carbon ratio (known as green to brown), to heat up a compost pile. Cold composting takes a lot longer, but is just as good for your garden.
THE COMPOST PILE:
Your compost pile will do best if started on the bare earth. You want to encourage beneficial micro organisms as well as earth worms to penetrate and aerate the compost. Addition of Red worms and Compost Alive! will speed the process along as well as increase nutrient levels in the finished product. A layer of twigs or straw should be placed first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist (food scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, seaweed..) and dry ingredients (woody trimmings, straw, leaves). Water the pile often during dry periods. You may want to cover it to contain moisture. An ideal temperature is 130-140 degrees. When the temperature drops the pile is either finished or needs to be aerated. It takes a 3-foot by 3-foot mix of the proper materials to heat up and start the quick, hot composting style. If this size is too large for your garden or you don't have all the ingredients on hand, then try bin composting or trench composting.
If garden space, time, or material is preventing you from building a compost pile, then consider this as another way of composting in your garden. Bins have a nice appearance and give you the cubic dimensions required to build a compost pile that will correctly "cook". Use the bin with the same recommendations as the pile. A great production method uses a series of bins. Start at one end of the series with raw materials and finish at the other end with ready to use compost. As the compost cooks in each bin and temperature begins to drop, you can turn the compost to the next bin, and start fresh with your first bin.
TRENCH OR HOLE COMPOSTING:
Chop up any large leaves or plants before adding them to your compost. Then simply dig a trench about 12 inches deep and a shovel's width wide thru a part of your garden that you aren't going to plant right away. Fill the trench with your composting ingredients, adding a little extra nitrogen like blood meal or manure to start the composting process. Water well, then cover with your garden soil. Check back in a week or two, to see how fast the decomposition is going. Keep the soil moist to help speed things up.
Do not compost ash from treated wood (contains arsenic) or painted woods. Be leery of banana peels, orange rinds, and other produce items that often contain pesticides. Do not compost meat or bones (they will attract pests). In addition, both perennial weeds and diseased plants may cause problems when applied to your garden.
Good luck, I hope that you have found these tips useful. If you haven't tried composting yet, you will be amazed how little time and energy it takes to get great returns in your garden!
Happy Gardening, Laurie