Making compost at home
Composting is a simple way to add some nutrient-rich humus which fuels plant growth and restores vitality to depleted soils.It is also free, easy to make and good for the environment. With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil. Moreover, it offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.
What to compost? Do not compost meat, bones and fish scraps (they will attract pests), perennials weeds (they can be spread with the compost) or diseased plants. Sawdust may be added to the compost, but must be mixed or shattered thinly to avoid clumping. Be sure sawdust is clean, with no oil residues from cutting equipment.
Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweeds. Dry materials are straws, leaves, sawdust and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle them in thin layers, or they will clump together and will be slow to break down. Add any nitrogen source, such as manure, green manure (clover, wheatgrass, grass clipping, buckwheat) which activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
Mixing or turning the compost pile is key to aerating the composting materials and speeding the process to completion. In this perspective, a rotating compost tumbler makes the compost easy to mix regularly.
All compostable materials are either carbon or nitrogen-based to varying degrees. We would have to maintain a working balance between these two elements.
Carbon-rich matter, such as branches, steams, drieds leaves, peels, bits of woods, bark dust or sawdust, shredded brown paper bags, corn stalks, coffee filters, conifer needles, egg shells, straw, feat moss, and wood ash, gives compost its light, fluffy body. Nitrogen or protein-rich matter, such as manures, food scraps, green lawn clippings and green leaves, provides raw materials for making enzymes. Anyway, a healthy compost pile should have much more carbon than nitrogen. A simple ratio is to use one-third green and two-third brown materials. The bulkiness of the brown materials allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the organisms that reside there. It isn't good to put more nitrogen than carbon because it causes smelly and slowly decomposing anaerobic mass.
Compost is made with decomposed organic material and its process involves four main components: organic matter, moisture, oxygen, bacteria. As we have seen above, organic matter includes plant materials and animal manures. Shredding, chopping or mowing these materials into smaller pieces will help speed the composting process. Moisture is important to support the composting process and if the pile is too dry, materials will decompose very slowly. On the contrary, if the pile is too wet you will have two options: turn the pile and mix the materials or add dry, brown organic materials.
Oxygen is needed to support the breakdown of plant material by bacteria. We will need to turn the compost pile to supply oxygen. In addition, turning the pile also is important for complete composting speedier.
And last but not least, bacteria and other microorganisms are the real workers in the compost process. If bacteria get organic materials, water and oxygen, they will break down the plant material into useful compost for the garden. Adding layers of soil makes the composting process speedier, considering that soil contains bacteria.