Friday, December 18, 2015

Composting with communEATi Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of communEATi’s all-about-composting blog series! In our last post, we prepped you with some information about the home and environmental benefits of composting, as well as what can and can’t be composted. Now, it’s time to dig right in and start breaking things down!

How to Compost
  1. -Start your compost pile on bare earth, allowing worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost. Pro-tip: the soil beneath a compost bin becomes enriched as nutrients filter down. Place your bin on a plot you plan to sow in the future (and move it each year) for double the compost benefits!
  2. -Add a few inches of lay twigs or straw first to aid drainage.
  3. -Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist ingredients (food scraps, tea bags, etc.) and dry ones (straw, leaves, sawdust pellets, etc.).
  4. -Keep compost moist. If it doesn’t rain much where you are, water it occasionally.
  5. -Cover your compost to help it retain moisture and heat, and to prevent over-watering by the rain. Remember: your compost should be moist, not soaked and sodden.
  6. -Every few weeks, give the pile a turn with a pitchfork or shovel to continue aerating. Mixing (or turning) the compost pile is key to completing the compost process.
    1. -If you buy a composter rather than build your own, you might want to consider buying a rotating one, which makes it easy to mix the compost regularly.
    2. -Pro-tip: Thoroughly mix in enough coarse material (like straw) when building your pile and your compost will develop as fast as if it were turned regularly.
  7. -If you have new materials, add them in by mixing them instead of layering.

Compost Bins
For small-scale outdoor composting or indoor composting, enclosed bins are the way to go:
  • -The least expensive enclosed compost bin is the one you create yourself.
    • -In a heavy-duty garbage can, drill 1.5-cm aeration holes in rows at roughly 15-cm intervals around the can. Fill the can with a mixture of high-carbon and high-nitrogen materials, stirring the contents occasionally.
  • -You can also buy a compost bin, which is typically enclosed on the sides and top and open at the bottom so it can sit directly on the ground. This is a good option for homes in residential areas where you don’t have as much space and really want to discourage pests.
  • -For indoor composting and collecting kitchen scraps for your compost pile, consider setting up shop in your kitchen. HGTV recommends a sleek, 3.5-quart ceramic crock (glazed inside and out) or a 3-gallon stainless steel step-can, depending on how many scraps your kitchen generates.
    • -You can now even buy 100% biodegradable liner bags for your indoor compost bin. When it needs to be emptied, just remove the liner, and toss the whole thing in with your compost.

Your Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio
All compostable materials are either carbon or nitrogen-based. The secret to a healthy compost pile is to maintain a working balance between these two elements, which means more carbon than nitrogen. The nitrogen-rich matter provides raw materials for making enzymes, while the carbon rich matter gives compost a light, fluffy body. An easy rule of thumb to remember is to use 1/3 green and 2/3 brown materials. And, if in doubt, add more carbon.

A Few More Pro-Tips:
  • -Add activators to your compost to help kick-start the process and speed up composting. Comfrey leaves, grass clippings, and well-rotted chicken manure are all good activators.
  • -Keep a small pile of dry grass clippings next to your compost pile. Whenever you add new materials to the pile (especially fruit or vegetable matter) cover them with the clippings. This will keep smells - and flies - from getting out of hand.
  • -Adding lime or calcium will also neutralize odors and discourage flies. If your compost smells like ammonia, add carbon-rich elements.
  • -If your compost is steaming: good! That means you have a large community of microscopic critters at work. If your pile doesn’t get hot enough (the center of the pile should reach temperatures between 130-150℉) you risk any weed seeds present surviving and getting spread throughout your garden when you use your compost.

Keep in mind that compost should be used as a soil additive, not exclusively as the growing medium. While it’s a great source of nutrients for growing plants, it’s only one component of a healthy garden bed. Be sure to stay tuned with communEATi on our blog, Twitter, and Facebook for more components of healthy gardening!

No comments:

Post a Comment