Compost is made by controlling the natural process of plant debris breakdown. Bacteria, fungi and other organisms work together to degrade plant material and recycle nutrients.
Compost can be made from grass clippings and tree leaves. Kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables can also be recycled by composting. Don’t put meat, fish, dairy products, grease, oil, bloodmeal or bones in your compost bin. More than 25% of the typical household’s waste is yard trimmings and food scraps that can be composted.
Start with a 3-inch layer of dried material, then add a 3-inch layer of green material. Next, add 2 inches of manure or one cup of nitrogen fertilizer. Finally, top with a half inch of soil. You now have the first compost layer. Continue the same process to create a pile at least 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Smaller piles do not heat properly. A good compost pile will heat in the middle as the composting process progresses.
A composting frame can be made from many materials, including old pallets or hardware cloth. Many companies manufacture compost bins from wood, plastic or metal in various designs.
The microorganisms involved in composting require oxygen and moisture. To ensure proper oxygen supplies, do not build the pile larger than 5 feet high by 5 feet wide and turn the pile when the center begins to cool. Check your compost pile for moisture regularly and water as needed. It will take three to six months using this method to produce useable compost.
Compost is a great mulch in flower, vegetable and shrub beds. Mixing compost into soil adds organic matter, improves soil aeration, improves soil drainage, adds nutrients and increases water-holding capacity of the soil for plant use. Compost is one of the best materials that can be added to tight clay soils to loosen it up.