year more than 3.5 million tons of recyclable yard waste is
unnecessarily sent to landfills. Viewed by many as rubbish, home
gardeners see this waste as "gardener's gold."
waste can be converted into compost. It's simple to
construct a container which would save much in purchasing bags of
what you have
compost container can be anything from a wire cage to
pressure-treated lumber or whatever material you have available.
building two 4-by-4-by-3-foot bins side-by- side.
continuously add material throughout the process. Work out of the first
bin and build the second for later.
you choose a freestanding or a contained bin, decomposition requires
four things: an adequate mix of carbon and nitrogen materials, plenty
of air, sufficient moisture and a population of organisms. Place your
bins in a full-sun or partial-sun location.
are the basic
steps to building a compost heap:
Find a shady and
sheltered position in your garden for your compost heap.
Purchase or build a secure container to hold your compost in position
and to protect it from rodents and other pests.
Using bare soil aerated by a covering of branches or straw creates a
good base for the compost heap.
Build on the base by piling vegetable matter, garden rubbish and weeds
into a heap so that it can rot and turn into compost. Well rotted horse
or cow manure is a good addition to any compost heap as manure speeds
up the composting process and is vital to producing rich humus for your
to start the process
your composting project, start with a 6-inch layer of ground leaves,
grass clippings, egg shells and any raw vegetable scraps. To that
layer, add an inch of soil and shredded newspaper. Moisten and continue
with the next layer.
materials collected from a mower grass bag or a chipper-shredder
decompose four times as fast as those not ground. Make sure your yard
waste isn't contaminated with disease.
bins need brown as well as green material for adequate decomposition.
Don't add meat products or you will attract
manure, make sure it has been aged at least one year to prevent the
risk of E. coli contamination.
jump-start the decomposition process, add a
very small amount of ammonium nitrate or any nitrogen-containing
fertilizer. A can of beer poured into the heap can help get things
should eventually heat up to 170 degrees after a few days and decompose
gradually. Through the natural breakdown process, in six
months a pile 3 feet deep will gradually decompose to 1 1-2 feet.
weekly, or have worms do it
maintain your compost, turn the pile weekly and keep the material
moist, but not wet.
worms, add vegetable scraps and corn meal.
great turners of the pile, and as they work, they put out their body
weight of manure each day..
finished compost should be an odor-free, ready-to-use amendment for
gardens or flowerbeds. It can also be used as potting soil.
prevent still viable seeds from germinating, you may add either a
pre-emergent (herbicide) or a 3-inch layer of mulch. Otherwise, you may
have tomatoes, peppers and other unwanted plants in
A key to successful composting is layering. Composts should have
alternating layers of green and brown organic materials. The green
organic material should consist of fruits, vegetables and grass
clippings, for example, whereas the brown organic material should come
from dry leaves, twigs or small pieces of wood. If there is too much
green organic material the compost will become too high in nitrogen,
whereas too much brown organic material in the compost will make it too
rich with carbon. Too much nitrogen may cause slime and too much carbon
may cause the composting process to move too slowly.
provide a valuable source of
nutrition for your garden if used properly. The proper amount to be
used depends on the condition of the soil and, more specifically, what
you are growing in your garden.
Compost Pile Finished?
grounds can be applied directly to the garden along with other
materials as a side dressing for vegetables, roses, and other plants.
Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, but are also acidic. Adding brown
material such as leaves and dried grass to the mulch will help keep a
balanced soil pH.
When mixed in with
other compostable mayterials, coffee grounds act as
a green material with a carbon-nitrogen (C-N) ratio of 20-1. They make
an excellent addition to your compost. Combined with browns such as
leaves and straw, coffee grounds generate heat and will speed up the
Sharon Omahen, University of Georgia
Massachusetts Audubon Society
Complete Compost Gardening Guide