Basic Composting

Any household can make their own compost. You need three things, carbon rich materials (brown and dry stuff), nitrogen rich materials (green stuff, manure, coffee grounds) and a little top soil. Here are more examples of each Carbon rich materials include things like straw or hay, fall leaves, dried weeds and plants from the garden, and dry grass clippings. All these are “brown” materials. Nitrogen rich materials include green lawn clippings, vegetable and fruit peelings, barnyard animal manure, and coffee grounds. These are “green’ materials. You’ll need a space about 3 feet by 3 feet. Start with a layer of straw, dry leaves, or shredded cornstalks. Top this with a layer of barnyard manure, green lawn clippings, or some other nitrogen rich material. You should spread a little top soil over this and start another layer of brown material, then green and a little more soil. Try to keep the ration of brown to green at about 3 to 1. Build this pile up to about 3 feet tall. It’s probably a good idea to water the layers as you build the compost heap. You will need to keep the compost moist (not wet). You should occasionally turn the pile, mixing materials from the outside of the pile with the stuff in the middle that is starting to break down. A garden fork is the best tool for this job. If you see steam rising from the middle of feel warmth, that’s a sign the pile is heating up, breaking down the raw materials. It will take a few weeks to a few months to break down completely. This depends a lot on outside temperature and moisture. One of the best composting solutions I’ve seen was one my brother-in-law used. There are three, side by side boxes or stalls, each about 3′ by 3′ or maybe a little smaller. Fill one of the stalls with compost material as described above. When it comes time to mix, use a fork or shovel to move it over to the next bin. This mixes it and now start a new compost pile in the original stall. When it’s time to turn again, shovel the middle over one more stall and shovel the new pile into the middle. At this point the oldest material is ready to use and you will be getting more every few weeks.