So how do you make compost.
In practical terms, you need an almost equal amount of green to brown to get a good compost pile working. And you need a large enough mass to get it “working”.
Again, in practical terms there are two kinds of composting-cool composting and hot composting.
Cool composting is the easy way. The first step is to try to get as much compost material as possible to form a layer, approximately 12 inches thick on the bottom of the compost pile. Mix in some woody prunings, scrunch up some cardboard or other brown material that does not break down quickly. This will give some airspace on the bottom and possibly help with the compost process.
Start filling the container. Adding ingredients as you get them. Try to add 50% green to 50% brown as you add material to the pile. Do this by volume so that you add a handful of green material and a handful of brown material, such as ripped up newspaper, to the bin at the same time.
You may find that the bin never fills up. It settles and composts from the bottom as fast as you add material to the top. If you can get your bin filled, then simply leave it alone to finish composting. This can take upwards of a year or more.
You can use the compost by scraping away from the bottom or digging out what appears to be finished compost: brown crumbling material that is not recognized as anything you put into the bin, in other words, compost is finished, when there is nothing resembling the original parent material.
My .02 I’m a lazy gardener – but you probably knew that already. I don’t dig when I don’t have to. I don’t turn compost when I don’t have to. And I don’t fuss about ratios of green to brown or anything like that. I toss whatever we have from the kitchen and waste from the garden into the same pile. And two years later, I have great compost.
I use old skids to make a 4×4 foot square – all wired together. I simply remove one section to dig out the compost into wheelbarrows or the front end loader of Buck – my lawn tractor and move it to the garden.
The trick with hot composting is to provide all of the compost material into the bin at the same time. The mixture should be 50:50 green to brown, for good compost heat development.
All material should be chopped up as finely as possible or put through a shredder.
Mix ingredients as much as possible before putting into the compost bin.
As you fill, water the mix so the ingredients are just damp.
If the ratio is correct, if the volume is large enough, approximately 4′ x 4′ x 4′, and he ingredients are mixed well together, the pile should heat up within a few days.
In a week or two, or when the pile starts cooling down, turn the pile over. Now, this means either moving everything to a new bin and/or finding a way to mix the outer edges and turn them into the middle of the new pile. In other words, the inner section of the compost will be hot while the outer edges are cool. We want to give the outer edges a chance to heat up as well.
After you’ve turned the pile, you will find the new supply of oxygen will heat the pile up again. You may have to repeat this turning three to four times in order to get a fully composted pile.
Neither hot nor cold.
It is possible to make a hybrid of these two methods. You fill your bin as per the cold system, and then when it is half to fully filled, you turn it over. This turning will, if the ratio to green:brown is right, activate, and heat up the pile.
When is compost ready
As I said above, compost is ready when it turns into a dark brown, sweet earthy smelling material.
That’s in a perfect world. We often find that there are small sticks or clumps of material or other things that don’t look like compost in our finished material.
I’m a lazy gardener. I put all these materials right onto the garden along with the finished compost. If you are more compulsive than I am, you can screen your compost to eliminate all the chunks and bits and then put them back into the compost bin to try again. You can always find more information about compost right here in the course outline.