Composting is a great way to break down bits of food, grass, and anything that is biodegradable. Let’s look at the simple steps involved in creating your compost heap.
How to compost
- Start off your pile of compost on bare soil, in your garden or wherever. This will allow worms and other organisms which are beneficial to the breakdown of your compost and transport nutrients to your garden flower beds.
- Firstly, lay some twigs or straw down, a couple of inches thick. This will help with drainage and helps to aerate the compost pile.
- Add in your compost materials in multiple layers. Alternate between moist and dry. The moist ingredients should be scraps of food, used tea bags and/or seaweed. Dry materials would be leaves, wood ashes, and sawdust pellets. If you are using ashes from burnt wood, then sprinkle them on thin layers, otherwise, they’ll clump together, causing the breakdown to slow down.
- Add in your manure, some green manure or any other source of nitrogen. This will effectively activate the compost and increases the speed of the whole process.
- Keep your compost pile moist. Water it regularly or just let the rain do it’s work.
- Cover it over with some wood or a sheet of plastic, even some carpet would do. This will help to retain the heat and moisture, two essential elements for a compost pile. The covering will also prevent your compost from being saturated by rain water.
- Turning the compost. Every couple of weeks, give your compost pile a quick turn over with a shovel or spade. This will aerate the compost. Turning introduces oxygen, which is needed.
Once you build up your compost, you should add fresh material to the pile by mixing them together, rather than simply adding them on top of the existing compost. Mixing and turning your pile is essential for aerating the materials and speeding up the composting process.
Note: You could also buy a composter, rather than making your own pile. You can get a rotating compost tumbler. This makes mixing up your compost regularly very easy.
Finally, a note on Nitrogen
Nitrogen and protein-rich matter (such as manure, food, grass clippings and green leaves) provide raw natural materials that produce enzymes.
Strictly speaking, a healthy pile of compost should have a lot more carbon present than nitrogen. A general rule of thumb is to use 33% green materials and 66% brown materials to make your pile. The bulk created by your brown materials will allow oxygen to penetrate through and nourish any organisms that are residing there. Using too much nitrogen will make for a densely, slowly decomposing anaerobic pile which will also smell really bad! So, for good compost hygiene, covering over your pile with fresh material rich in nitrogen, will help to release any bad odors, once exposed to air, with material rich in carbon. This will leave a fresh smell. Simply add more carbon if you are looking for the right balance!