Secrets to Success

4 Steps to Compost Success

4 Steps to Compost Success

Composting is both an art and a science, but don't let the science scare you! Composting can be simplified to the following key steps:

1.Layer upon layer of "stuff." A compost pile is like a sandwich-every layer has a purpose, but the layers work best together. Why layers? Because, together, the layers create insulation (more about generated heat below) and a balance of carbon and nitrogen (ratio of 30:1 by weight)-the two elements needed to feed microorganisms that will run around your compost pile decomposing every bit.

The first layer in your compost pile should be about 6 inches of dry, carbon-rich, brown materials (see below), followed by a 6-inch layer of green, nitrogen rich materials (see below). Because this hodgepodge isn't compact, air can circulate between all the materials. Then, add a 2-inch layer of manure or already decomposed compost, and finish with topsoil. Repeat the layers, adding water to the dry layers until you have a 4-foot tall pile.

Brown Material (Carbon Rich)
Leaves
Paper products: newspaper, cardboard, shredded paper
Sawdust
Straw (avoid hay as it adds weedy seed heads)

Green Material (Nitrogen Rich)
Manure
Coffee Grounds
Vegetable Scraps
Grass Clippings
Non-woody plant cuttings

2.Temperature and moisture...check! While the layers are decomposing, the bacteria and microorganisms heat things up-literally. But that's good because heat means that the microorganisms are doing their job of breaking down material. Purchase a compost thermometer from your local garden center or just hold your hand over the top of the pile to feel the heat radiating. If it feels cool (under 50

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