Composting Recipe

 

from Heartland All Species Project, Kansas City, MO USA
pdf version | Compost Recipe with photographs

Composting, the natural breakdown of dead plant and animal tissues into soil, is one of the easiest, most natural processes there is. It has been going on without human help for millions of years.

Backyard composting is a great way to conserve the energy it takes to haul your yard trimmings away. You can then spread the finish product on the soil to make it richer in organic matter.

Although composting requires no container, you can confine it with various materials. The easiest container is made from thirteen feet of two inch by four inch welded wire fence made into a circle.

Hardware stores carry it in various heights. We recommend the 36". The higher the fence you use the more it holds, but the harder it is to turn in your vegetable wastes. When you buy your compost bin wire, have them cut it leaving long wires sticking out on one end. These wires can be bent over to fasten the ends together. To turn the pile unfasten the wire hooks and remove the enclosure. Reform it immediately next to the standing "stack" of compost. Then fork the material from the previous stack over into the empty enclosure. The more often you turn the pile the faster decomposition happens. A hay fork is the easiest tool to turn with.

COMPOST RECIPE

1. 50-70% browns (leaves, hay, dry matter) The "browns" are the carbohydrate or energy foods for the compost organisms. By digesting the browns, the micro-organisms get the energy for their work. The bulk of the browns leave the pile as carbon dioxide breathed out by the “bugs”. Use a mower or shredder, if available, to reduce the particle size. Smaller particles have more surface area and accelerate the rate of composting.

2. 30-50% greens (grass, garbage, manure) The "greens" are the fresh, damp materials that decompose rapidly on their own. They contain nitrogen compounds that are important in allowing the population of micro-organisms to grow. Nitrogen is the key element in protein which is needed to make the tissue for more animals. The greens are also the source of most bad smell related to composting. They should be mixed completely or at least in layers with drier brown materials. Too much green material can collapse in volume and loose its air, and putrefy.

3. 0-5% black (dirt, old compost) The "blacks" are the innoculant, the yeast in the bread, that starts the process. Rich soil or compost has innumerable soil organisms. These bugs provide a "jump start" to a compost pile and can help reduce the time required. While not absolutely necessary, the blacks speed the process.

4. Water (damp sponge consistency) It is very important to have adequate moisture inside the compost pile. The vast majority of problem piles are too dry. Water the pile as you build it, not from the top at the end. Leaves are like shingles and should be stirred and sprayed to insure that they get wet If you do Nothing else, moisten the pile. The pile may also need covering during rainy periods to avoid water logging and losing air.

5. Air (bin with open sides, turning ) Oxygen is required for this "slow fire" we call composting. Without it, biological activity will be severely limited and a shift to putrefying bacteria may occur. This occurs most often when too much fresh green matter or garbage is added and not mixed in well.

Mix ingredients together and turn as you can. If pile is cool, and not yet humus, it needs to be turned.

GRASS CYCLING

If you cut your grass high and often you do not have to bag the clippings. The small tips of grass will fall down and compost by the roots adding fertility to your lawn.


Compost Recipe pdf file.

Go to Compost Learning Guide for more composting tips.

For more about using alfalfa fertilizer in your compost pile.

Or Composting for Life.

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