Volume 13, Issue 40 ~ October 6 - 12, 2005
Make Your Own Compost
Part 1: What can be composted and how

A compost bin need not be elaborate or expensive. Four used pallets wired together make an ideal bin. All you truly need is an enclosure that will allow air to penetrate but prevents the compostables from spreading. Two compost bins are more efficient than one. As one compost bin becomes full, you start dumping your organic waste into the second bin.

Composting drums are great if you have limited space and want to make compost in a hurry. However, during the late fall and winter months, they are useless because temperatures within are too cool for composting.

Weeds, leaves, vegetable trimmings and grass clippings are great for getting the composting process started. The soil clinging to the roots of weeds both helps hold moisture and provides all of the essential microorganisms. Chopping the weeds into small pieces hastens the process if you are in a hurry for compost.

The more you mix the ingredients together the better, both for the compost and you, as turning the pile is great exercise. You’ll also need to pile the waste loosely so that air can penetrate and wet down the pile. After all, microorganisms are alive and require moisture to function and breath oxygen.

In mid to late October, you will have a super abundance of leaves to deal with. Harvesting the leaves with your lawn mower and bagger will hasten the composting process. Having the kids jump in the leaves to crush them is also beneficial. You can compost whole leaves, but it will take a little longer.

Layer leaves approximately six inches deep in your compost bin. To a five-gallon pail two-thirds full of water, add a shovel full of garden soil, one-half cup ammonium nitrate or urea fertilizers and one-fourth cup kitchen detergent. Stir well. Sprinkle several quarts of mixture over each layer of leaves and soak the leaves with a garden hose before placing another layer of leaves on top. Unless you wet dry leaves thoroughly while building the pile, they will not compost. To efficiently compost, waste material should be as wet as a sponge.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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