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Friday, February 23, 2018

How to Compost – Three Easy Steps to Good Composting

Posted by admin on September 25, 2010

It is estimated that the average person throws away around 4 pounds of garbage per day. Around 75 percent of that garbage is comprised of organic matter, which means it is compostable. Isn’t it time we started doing our part to reduce the amount of garbage ending up in landfills and learned how to compost?

Composting is a way to speed up the natural, biological process through which organic wastes are reduced to humus, which is dark, earth like organic matter that has reached the point where it will not break down any further. This finished compost or humus greatly improves soil texture and better enables the soil to retain nutrients, moisture and air for the support of healthy flowers and vegetables. Composting is something we can all do to help the environment, and it is rather easy to learn how to compost.

It is important to remember that there is no “right or wrong” way to compost. You can make good compost in a pile or heap in your backyard or you can make good compost in a manufactured composter.

The secret to making good compost is the proper mix of organic material. There are three main ingredients involved in composting.

1. Browns-dead leaves, branches, cardboard, paper, etc.

2. Greens-grass clippings, fruit and vegetable wastes and coffee grounds

3. Water

The browns add carbon to your compost pile, the greens add nitrogen and the water provides moisture to assist in the breakdown of organic matter. Your compost pile or composter should contain equal amounts (50%/50%) of browns and greens with enough water to make the organic matter moist but not soggy.

In learning how to compost, let’s now consider the four stages of the composting process:

1. Fresh: At stage one, the materials being composed are dark in color and still easily recognizable; micro-organisms are sparse and just beginning their activity; a rise in temperature can be observed: This is the heat phase.

2. Partially Decomposed: At stage two the compost has a mild, not unpleasant odor; it contains many micro-organisms the materials being composted are very loose and brittle, and almost unrecognizable; mushroom may be present, aiding to decompose the most resistant materials: cellulose, lignin, and wood; chemical exchange takes place during this stage: This is the gaseous and liquid phase.

3. Mature: At stage three, recombination of decomposition products from preceding stages occurs: This is the humidification phase.

4. Aged Compost: At stage four, the compost looks almost like soil (loam); it resembles natural topsoil; its organic matter and nitrogen content are low: This is the mineralization phase.

At this point we should have a better idea of how to compost. Now, you may be asking yourself, “How do I start composting?”

1. Determine which method you desire to use. Will you create a compost pile or heap? Will you build a compost bin? Or, will you purchase a manufactured composter?

2. Next, start being diligent in separating your garbage. Start setting aside materials that can be added to your compost pile or composter. Of course organic materials such as vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and egg shells can be added. But, you can also add things like toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls and shredded cardboard as well.

I have a cross-cut shredder and shred all “white” paper from my junk mail, and I add this shredded paper to my compost bin. Do not use colored paper or paper printed with colored inks as these are not good for your compost. Also, be sure to keep out things such as envelopes with glassine windows, as these materials do not readily break down in the composting process.

Finally, yard waste, such as grass clippings, is a great nitrogen-rich additive to your compost pile or composter. Be careful not to put weeds or invasive plants in your compost pile or composter because you do not want to run the risk of these plants “infecting” your compost.

3. Remain committed to your composting endeavors. With some diligence you should have your first batch of compost in 3-4 months using a compost pile or heap and even sooner if you use a composter. Composters retain the heat generated from the composting process, which in turns breaks down the organic materials more quickly. Also, compost tumblers assure that the compost is well mixed, which further aids in thorough decomposition. With compost tumblers you can have finished compost in as little as 3 weeks.

As you can see, learning how to compost is not as difficult a task as you may have expected. The biggest challenge is changing your lifestyle so that you are more conscious of what, in your “world,” can be composted. Composting is a wonderful way to recycle your garbage and turn it into nutrient-rich compost to be used in your garden, while at the same time reducing the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills.

Start composting today! Composting is good for the environment and your garden. For more information on what items can be composted, you may want to read “What Can You Compost?” is your source for composters and composting equipment, as well as composting know-how. We are here to help you get started composting at home today. Come by for a visit.

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How to Compost Leaves the Easy Way

Posted by admin on September 24, 2010

Did you know that leaves make great compost? Yes, I said wonderful leaves! Those leaves falling outside your window are a great source of organic material for making compost.

It’s true-leaves are an excellent organic material for making compost for a couple of reasons:

Since trees usually have extensive root systems, leaves end up being the recipient of all those nutrients gathered from the soil.
Leaves are highly fibrous improving the aeration and composition of the soil.

Now, I can hear you saying, “I tried to compost my leaves, but it didn’t work.” Probably most people have had some negative experience trying to compost leaves. Actually, leaves can take several years to break down if you fail to compost them properly. Don’t worry, learning how to compost leaves is not nearly as difficult as you may think. We are going to show you the easy way to compost leaves.

The first question many people ask is “What kind of leaves work best for composting?” Just about any typical leaf works great. Here are some of the most common leaf types:

White Ash
American Beech

Balsam Fir
Eastern Hemlock
Red Maple
Sugar Maple
White Oak

We should mention that if oak or beech leaves are used exclusively the resulting compost will be a bit more acidic making it quite suitable for plants such as rhododendrons and blueberries. You can tone down the acidity by adding some limestone to the leaves as you fill your compost bin or compost pile.

There are two important things that you must do when you compost leaves to ensure that your leaves will compost properly. The first thing is to make sure your leaves are shredded when adding them to your composter, compost tumbler or compost pile.

Shredding your leaves is quite easy. You can mow over them several times before you rake them up. Also, there are a number of manufacturers who make shredder / chippers that work great for leaves. I even had a gasoline powered blower that had a vacuum attachment for picking up leaves, which left the leaves in a nice shredded state.

The second important thing you must do when you compost leaves is to make sure that you add nitrogen to your compost bin or compost pile. Leaves contain very little nitrogen. It is this lack of nitrogen that causes the leaves to decay slowly. Adding nitrogen to your compost bin or compost pile will help to speed up the decomposition process of the leaves. Adding nitrogen can be as simple as adding grass clippings with the leaves as you fill your compost tumbler or compost bin.

Other sources of nitrogen include manure, dried blood, alfalfa meal, and bone meal. If you are using manure, use 1 part manure to five parts leaves. If you are using a natural source of nitrogen such as dried blood, use two cups per wheelbarrow load of leaves.

Once you have shredded your leaves and found an additional nitrogen source, you simply add your leaves and nitrogen source to your compost tumbler, compost bin or compost pile and keep the leaves moist but not wet and allow nature to do its thing. You will of course want to keep your leaves turned on a fairly regular basis if you are using a compost bin or compost pile.

If you want to make the composting process even quicker and easier, a compost tumbler works the best. With a compost tumbler you are able to easily turn your compost on a weekly basis keeping the organic material well-mixed thereby speeding up the decomposition process. With a compost tumbler you can have compost in as little as 3 or 4 weeks. Two great compost tumblers for backyard composting are the Envirocycle Compost Tumbler and the Tumbleweed Compost Tumbler.

Hopefully, at this point you will look on those falling leaves a little more favorably. Taking some time to compost leaves in the fall will result in great compost to use in your garden in the spring. So go outside, rake some leaves and make some compost!

For additional information on composting you may want to read “What Can You Compost?” Happy raking and composting! “Don’t throw it away, compost it!” is your source for composters and composting equipment, as well as composting know-how. We are here to help you get started composting at home today. Come by for a visit.

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Practical Compost Making

Posted by admin on September 22, 2010

Whether you are an ordinary gardener, or an organic gardener which doesn’t use of any sort of chemical additive for fertilization or pest control, a quality compost becomes one of the most important factors in determining the ultimate success of your garden. Compost is one of nature’s best mulches and soil amendments. With a good quality compost there is no need to use any sort of commercial fertilizer, and one of the best features of compost is that it can literally be made without spending a dime.

What Exactly Is Compost

Compost is the remnants of any organic material that has been aerobically decomposed. Compost is often also called humus. In earth science “humus” is defined as any organic matter which has reached a point of stability, where it will break down no further and can remain essentially as it is for centuries, or even millennia. So both words, for practical gardening purposes, basically mean the same thing; the end product of decomposed organic matter. It is also important to note that this decomposition is a result of a aerobic process as opposed to an anaerobic process. For example, vegetables placed in an airtight plastic bag will still decompose but will do so in an anaerobic manner since there is limited oxygen available. Anaerobic decomposition is what produces the foul odor that most of us are quite aware of.

The Compost Decomposition Process

The decomposition of organic matter is actually a process of repeated digestions as organic matter repeatedly passes through the intestinal tracts of soil animals or is attacked by the digestive enzymes secreted by microorganisms. Compost is the end product of this complex feeding pattern involving hundreds of different microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects. In reality composting simply replicates nature’s natural system of breaking down materials on the forest floor. But fortunately for us, the organic gardener, this process results in a product that significantly improves soil fertility and helps keep the soil in a healthy balanced condition where nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus will be produced naturally.

Compost Ingredients

Although almost any organic material can be used for compost pile, caution should be used when backyard composting as most backyard systems will not reach high enough temperatures to kill pathogens or deter vermin. So generally pet feces, non vegetarian animal manure, meat scraps, and dairy products should not be used unless you can be sure that an adequate temperatures will be reached.

To ensure proper composting your compost pile needs the right mixture of carbon rich “brown matter” and nitrogen rich “green matter”. Brown matter can consist of such items as dried leaves, straw, sawdust, wood chips, and even non-inked paper and cardboard. Green matter can include green plant material such as grass clippings, fresh cut hay, weeds, animal manures, fruit and vegetable table scraps, seaweed’s, and coffee grounds.

The Composting Process

This speed by which the composting process will occur will depend to a large extent on amount of effort you desire to put into creating the compost. Passive composting obviously takes the least amount of effort on your part. You simply mix the materials together in a freestanding pile and allow them to sit and rot on their own. This process may take a year or two but eventually you’ll have compost.

However, by actively managing your compost pile, you can often get finished compost in as little as one month. You can actively decrease the amount of time it takes to create compost if you’re willing to take the time to chop up your materials since shredded organic materials can heat up more rapidly and decompose quickly.

Heat is an important factor in effective composting. Hot composting allows aerobic bacteria to thrive. The ideal condition is for pasteurization to occur in a hot compost. Pasteurization will occur when the temperature reaches 55° Celsius (131°F) or more for three or more days. This will kill most pathogens and seeds. Pasteurized compost is valuable to the home gardener since the pasteurization process is otherwise both expensive and complicated, and adding chemicals to produce pasteurization is not an acceptable alternative for organic gardening.

Compost Tumblers

For many gardeners, space is often an issue, and even you have adequate space in your backyard you may not want to have a large unsightly compost heap. Compost tumblers offer a reasonable and effective alternative to the compost pile. And while the claims of some compost tumblers to produce compost in as little as 13 days may be slightly exaggerated, they do offer several benefits over the standard compost heap and they actually can accelerate the decomposition process because of their convenience.

There are a number of benefits of compost tumblers. First, they are generally easy to use and come in a number of sizes and styles that make the turning of your compost piles much easier. Second, because they are fully enclosed they are pest proof from such common pests as squirrels, raccoons, rats and dogs. Also, because tumblers are in a closed environment it’s much easier to retain moisture so your compost doesn’t dry out. Also in wet weather it won’t get too soggy. The enclosed environment also keeps unpleasant orders inside the compost tumbler (however if you’re keeping your compost properly aerated by proper turning there should not be any unpleasant odors).

Whether you garden by more modern means, or are a strict organic gardener, one thing is certain; healthy plants come from a healthy and nutritious soil. By making your own compost (a.k.a. gardeners black gold), not only are you being environmentally friendly and very economical, you’re producing your own natural black gold for your vegetables, herbs and flowers and providing healthy, safe, and great tasting food for your loved ones.

Katie Collins is a gardener, mother and writer. For more great articles and advice on gardening please visit our websites at Great Vegetable Gardens [] and Better Organic Gardens []

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How to Compost the Lazy Way

Posted by admin on December 16, 2008

The time I”m willing to spend on yard work is very limited, so all my landscaping planning centered around “ease of maintenance.”

Putting in a garden and planning to compost my yard waste goes way beyond the scope of my planning.

I’ve been doing a significant amount of research in preparation for composting my yard, garden, and kitchen waste.  I had resigned mysef to the belief that composting is a very scientific and complicated process. 

I’ve finally found the information that I’ve been looking for.  Anthony at The Compost Bin blog has described a process of composting that fits my M.O.  Furthermore, it is a process that he has tested and determined to be effective for producing quality compost

Thank you, Anthony.  Now I can sleep.

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What Did You Do With Your Leaves?

Posted by admin on December 15, 2008

The theory is that the dried leaves that have fallen from your trees are difficult to compost. There are two easy solutions to that problem.

  1. Mulch them before you put them into the composter.
  2. Add nitrogen rich materials along with the leaves that you put into your composter.

Mulching your leaves can be as simple as running over them with a lawnmower. In fact, using a mower with a grass catcher even saves the time of having to rake them into a pile. That should be appealing to anyone who is as lazy as me.

According to Greg at Reduce Pollution Tips, mixing in one part manure to five parts leaves helpx them break down quicker. He also recommends other nitrogen rich sources such as bone meal, dried blood, or cottonseed.

I don’t readily know of a source for those materials, and furthermore, the thought of hauling and handling cow poop doesn’t have a strong appeal to me. I think I’ll stick to the one handy nitrogen source that is in heavy supply for me – namely, grass clippings and kitchen waste. I’m sure manure would greatly speed the process, but I’m way more into convenience.

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Compost How To: Ink in Vegetable Garden Compost

Posted by admin on October 28, 2008

I went to Yahoo Answers to get some Compost How To regarding contents that you add to your garden composter. I was concerned about the ink on the shredded paper and cardboard that I introduce into my garden composter. I found this question on the topic.


How about the ink on cash register receipts from the store? How about the ink on cereal boxes and other packaging? What about the glue in corrugated cardboard boxes? This compost is for vegetable gardening.


Read on in the comments for a detaile answer that was given on this topic.

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How to Build a Garden Composter

Posted by admin on October 24, 2008

Here’s a links to a site that give some instruction on how to build a Garden Composter.

This website describes how to build your own garden composter. If you want small scale composting, just use a smaller plastic bin, a package of fishing worms and your compostables. this bin can even be placed under a counter or on your back porch. use a hand spade for occasional turning.

Another simple method is one that I got from Yahoo Answers:

Use 4 pallets (construction companies have them coming out of their ears, so do large home improvement stores). You lay all four end to end on the ground, then lay a layer of chicken wire on top of them. Staple the chicken wire down, then stand the whole thing up. THat will leave you with one corner not connected. It’ll be very heavy when it’s done, so it’s best to assemble it where you want it to stay. Using this method you will have good air circulation and it’ll be much easier to get inside the bin to stir it up or remove compost.

You can’t get much simpler than that.

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Compost How To

Posted by admin on October 23, 2008

I found this question on Yahoo answers and though that the replies contributed valuable insight.

Some people say you have to let the air get in and others say you have to close it up in order for the heat to build up which hastens decomposition. Who is right?

Also looking for ideas on *how to do a home made compost bin.

  • Steps in creating good compost.
  • how to attract worms
  • can I use chopped up twigs
  • should I mix soil in with the compost to hasten decomposition.

Here’s a site that provides some good comprehensive information on the topic…

Read through the comments on this post. The authors of the comments offer some great compost how to for the garden composter.

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