Photo found on Flickr.com, courtesy of normanack.
What to Feed Your Compost Pile
Gardeners have lots of favorite crops, and mine is compost; I find it so satisfying to make. As you probably know, compost is the supreme soil builder, and the better your soil the better your garden will grow. Compost consists of plant parts that have decayed, leaving a pure organic material that improves the fertility of the soil, enhances the soil’s ability to hold water, improves soil drainage, prevents erosion, and helps balance the soil.
While every gardener has a preferred system of composting, they all share the same basic method. Whether they use homemade bins, commercial composters, or piles on the ground, all gardeners use a combination of brown, carbon-rich materials such as dried leaves and green, nitrogen-rich materials like grass clippings and food scraps.
They strive for a ratio of four parts brown to one part green. They add some rich soil or compost, keep the pile as moist as a squeezed out sponge, and turn the pile periodically to add oxygen to speed up the decay process.
Good Compost Ingredients
·Fruit and vegetable scraps
·Coffee and filters
What Not to Add to Your Compost Pile
·Anything that has been treated with herbicide. Herbicides kill plants. The herbicide that you apply to your lawn to kill clover and other broadleaf plants will not biodegrade in the compost pile. That means that when you put the compost on your garden next year the herbicide may kill the broadleaf plants in your garden, like your tomatoes, peppers, and just about any other vegetable plant.
·Meat scraps, cheese, and other greasy foods, because they attract critters to the compost pile.
·Twigs, wood chips, and branches because they take too long to break down.
·Weed seeds or roots of perennial weeds.
·The smaller the pieces you add to your compost pile, the quicker they will biodegrade—which means you’ll have finished compost sooner. Take the time to cut up melon rinds, break eggshells, chop of leaves, etc.
·Don’t add big mats of wet leaves or grass clippings because they won’t have enough oxygen and they will get moldy rather than decay.
·The center of your pile has to get hot (140-160 degree F) to kill weed seeds, insect pests, and diseases.
·Speaking of weeds, hay often has lots of weed seeds. Straw is more expensive, but generally free of seeds.
·To improve air circulation put a two- or three-inch layer of twigs at the bottom or your pile.
For More Information About Composting
Composting is a popular topic. You can find a ton of good information on the Internet at sites like these:
Compost Instructions is one of the best resources for composting on the web. Any additional info you seek is most likely on this website.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension has an easy-to-follow article called “Making Compost from Yard Waste.”
The University of Missouri Extension describes how to build different types of compost bins.
Composting is good for the environment. That’s why the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has instructions on how to make compost.