How to Compost the Easy Way

The last thing needed to compost the “hard” way is to pay attention to the heat the pile is giving off while you turn it. That heat is one of the big keys to a successful compost heap. The optimal temperature of a compost pile is 131° F. That is quite warm! A cold pile will break down, but a hot pile will break down much faster, and kill any weed seeds that may be present. I have had compost piles that broke down a full pickup truck load of grass clipping in just 3 weeks. Now those piles where HOT!

That’s it, that is the “hard” way. Not so hard huh?  Just adding a few steps to the “easy” way of composting will allow you to have compost much sooner, and your plants will love you for it.

A word of caution: Many composting authorities will tell you it is ok to use horse manure in your compost, and I am sure there are thousands, if not millions of folks who have used it and got great results, but personally I suggest that you stay away from it. Horses don’t digest their food anywhere near efficiently as cows do. This means that there will be some weed seeds present in the manure. If the compost pile doesn’t get to temperature and stay at the optimum temperature, the seeds won’t be killed. These seeds CAN and WILL germinate in the compost pile, and anywhere you use the compost. Your gardens, potted plants, flower beds, anywhere!

I decided to try (one more time…) adding horse manure to my compost pile, and used very old horse manure. It was so old, it looked like muck. Stupid move! I had to remove hundreds of landscape plants from pots that were overgrown with a very aggressive grass because the seeds that were in the manure did not get killed either naturally, or in the compost pile. The roots of the grass were so large, that when I tried to remove the grass by pulling it out of the soil, the entire contents of the pot came with it! No soil left in the pot; it was so entwined in the grass root! These were fairly small clumps of grass. The larger clumps had grown throughout the entire pot, and out the bottom drainage holes and into the soil beneath. Those pots were pretty tough to just separate from the ground!

Save yourself some trouble by not using horse manure. Remember, you are making compost the easy way. It is not easy removing the aggressive grass from your gardens.

For more information on composting, try Florida’s Online Composting Center. They have a great chart showing the carbon and nitrogen ratios of some common composting materials for a quick reference when building your pile. OOPS! That may make our “hard” way of composting just unbearable.

Dwayne Haskell owns and operates Mistkits.com where complete misting kits, individual components, and advice can be found. After building his own misting system for his nursery, he realized he could design and build systems for small nurseries or home gardeners who are interested in starting their own plants from cuttings.

He has written an E-book titled Build an Arbor in Just One Weekend, and another on gardening, landscaping and plant propagation tips. He also enjoys teaching others how to grow their own landscape plants and owns and moderates the Mistkits blog, where you can find more articles, polls, and quizzes on landscape and gardening related topics.

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