Tired of the same ole ‘reruns’, endless tv series, media, commercials, and couch crashing? Me too… Getting back in tune with ourselves and our place in nature is now dire. Starting your own compost pile is but one of a million ways to get back to our ‘roots’ and spend a little more time outside of the “safety” of our high walls. Not only will you find yourself giving to nature, but you will also surely find that nature is giving a bigger gift to you! Happy Posting!
Compiled notes of practice and study:
Resembling Humus, comprised of materials in various stages of decomposition. Some being broken down quickly while others may require more time.
Even though all of the contents of the compost pile may not be fully decomposed, it may still be incorporated into your garden or flower beds. Most concur that it is, in fact, a good thing as you are transferring the microbial activity to the soil of your garden, where they will continue to do you bushels of good! Think of them as natural cultivators for your soil; less work on you, and all the more to reap!
Ingredients for “Black Gold”
In order to create some wonderful “black gold”, you must first use the best “ingredients”. Compost is made up two main materials – those which are high in Carbon and those that are high in Nitrogen.
A good equal balance of the two will suffice, though generally you want to keep the nitrogen input slightly higher. Once these are mixed together with a bit of oxygen, a bit of H2O, and good dosage of patience, you’ll have some luscious, premium dark roast for the greater good of all your green-babies.
Here Reads A Gathered list of Nitrogen/Carbon Materials (common)
Material Carbon/Nitrogen Notes
Fruit/Vegetable Scraps Nitrogen
Egg Shells Neutral add crushed
Raked leaves, pine needles Carbon
Grass Clippings Nitrogen thin layers to avoid clumps
Old Garden plants Nitrogen
Shredded Newspaper Carbon avoid glossy paper
Wood Ash Carbon
Livestock Manure Nitrogen (great heat “activator”)
Coffee Grounds Nitrogen also add the paper filter
Tea Leaves Nitrogen loose or still in the bag
Shredded Cardboard Carbon
Sawdust Pellets Carbon high in carbon, add lightly
Wood Chips, sticks Carbon small as possible, use sparingly
Chop those Chunks
When adding your nitrogen and carbon mixed materials to your pile, pay attention to how large the piece of material is. The smaller the chunk of organic matter, the faster the rate of decomposition will be. Lots of small pieces offer more surface area for microorganisms to chomp on. Chop, break, and shred most of the material you plan to dump in.
Hey! Not all the Chunks!
Though it is best to have mostly coarse to fine chopped pieces, it is also quite beneficial to all for some bulk to remain. This will provide air pockets where oxygen will have more ease entering the mini microorganism ecosystem. Too much-compressed contents will form impenetrable mats, reducing the ability of oxygen to circulate through the pile. Your composting critters need oxygen to thrive; if it is depleted, they will die out.
Suggested article: How To Make Compost Tea
Hot or Cold?
The main difference, or general consensus thereof, between a ‘hot’ pile and a ‘cold’ pile, would be an issue of time.
As microorganisms begin to break down the organic matter, they release heat. A hot pile can reach temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit but never exceeding that temperature. This is also known as ‘Thermophilic Composting’.
Turning the pile will need to be done more often – at minimum, once per week.
Manage the thermophilic pile and maintain relatively high temperatures by mixing and moistening (as needed) until the preferred food sources are depleted to a moist, black, crumbly, natural plant steroid. Monitor the temperature by occasionally, every day or so, sticking in a thermometer. If the temperature has dropped, use a pitchfork to ‘stir’ or turn the pile.
If properly maintained Hot Composting can produce usable compost in as little as 3 or 4 weeks up to 2 or 3 months.
Your main key in a ‘Hot Pile’ is weekly, if not daily, maintenance; therefore, it can become time-consuming with a plus of gaining a new, somewhat rigorous workout routine! Oh yeah!! Forget That Pilates!!
DISCLAIMER: Cold composting may take up six months or so to obtain ‘usable’ compost!
However, if you start your pile in, say, October or November, you will not need the soil supervisor until well into spring, once your plants have grown. It will be the ‘perfect’ timing for side dressing your rows or flower beds.
The main advantage of a ‘Cold Pile’ is it requires little to no maintenance on your part once you’ve built it up. Decomposer organisms will continue to break down the refuse, only at a slower pace. These microorganisms are known as Mesophiles and Psychrophiles (cold-loving organisms).
You can help the aeration of the cold pile by rolling a small amount of chicken wire into a tubular shape and put it in the center of your compost pile, and build the green and brown materials up around it. This is but another way to get some good oxygen to your micro workforce, the first, if you will recall, is introducing some slightly larger ‘chunks’ to the pile to allow breathing room.
Using Finished Compost
Once your compost is finally a deep, rich black gold that can be weightlessly sifted through your hands like the sand in an hourglass, you can put it to its radical use!
Year Round Garden:
- Add compost at least twice per year
- Some warm climate soils are naturally low in organic matter
Warm Season Application:
- Add your compost concoction to your spring beds or garden before your area’s planting season.
Side Dressing Rows or Beds:
- If you’ve pre-prepped your ground with, say, manure or limestone before winter or before you begin planting, no need to use up your hard-earned compost. Save your compost for a nutrient boost quarter to mid-way through your growing season.
- Using a shovel, or any tool that fits to your liking, spread the compost in between and up the sides of your rows.
- Work the compost into the existing soil.
Do Not place the compost directly on top of plants nor directly around the base of the stem. You will risk burning the yard art or grocery bush slap up!
The easiest manner of transporting the sacred soil from your composter to the garden is by using a wheelbarrow or a good ole five-gallon bucket.
Common Compost Inquiries
Ants in the Pile
A large number of ants usually indicates compost is too dry. Moisten and turn the pile to disrupt their colonies, and encourage them to leave.
However, ants may actually benefit the process of composting by bringing fungi and other organisms into their nests. The works of ants can make compost richer in phosphorus and potassium by moving minerals from one place to another.
Keep Critters at Bay
Make sure not to add any meat, minimal dairy products, and no greasy foods (they will rot, attract unwanted animals, and literally ruin your beautiful compost). Cover newly added ‘greens’ with a layer of ‘browns’, i.g. leaves, branches, soil…
Try planting marigolds around the perimeter of your composter.
Loads of Tiny Flies
To control flies, cover the scraps with a light layer of soil, then add a 2 to 4-inch layer of brown material, such as leaves, straw, or stripped up newspapers.
Compost is Too Dry
Materials in your compost should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. When you squeeze a handful, only a few drops should drip out, but there should be enough moisture to hold the material together in a ball. Piles that are exposed to the sun or open air tends to dry out fairly quickly. Try covering the pile with a plastic tarp to retain moisture.
If the compost is too dry, add water. Check if the water is absorbed into the pile or just sheds as it hits. Water from above is ineffective. Turn the pile while watering to get water to each layer.
Always have a good balance of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials. Your pile should be about 40 to 50% moisture at all times.
When to Turn
My pops says to turn every few days or so. I guess he’s really suggesting I need a good workout! This will speed the process of decomposition by working the micro-army to the top where they will work their way back down. You can also get away with rarely, if ever, turning it, as in the process of a ‘cold pile’.
Compost Smells Bad
If the pile is compressed and lacks airspace, turn it and add some twigs and other materials that help to add space for air.
If the compost is so wet that it drips, add more dry, brown material, such as leaves, dried out weeds, or soil and mix thoroughly. Loosen any clumps that may have matted together. If the pile has an ammonia odor, you probably have too much green material and not enough brown. Add brown accordingly.
If you follow the proper procedures while composting, you will never have to worry about any stinky, unwanted smells; in fact, it will have a sweet smell that your olfaction will love as you sift the black gold through your fingers and into your garden!
I built my composter with four recycled wooden pallets, a handful of nails, and some old hinges I had laying around the homestead.
I stood three of the pallets together to form ¾ of a square. Attached them with nails (screws are a better choice, though mine has held just fine with nails). I then attached the fourth pallet on one side with three hinges.
Next, I lined the insides with three and a half feet of black landscape fabric (protecting the contents from seeping through the gaps of the pallets and to deter my local critter-hood).
Also, for looks mainly, but also to utilize space, I inserted boards in the gaps on the front of the pallet door then fitted in some landscaping fabric. I also used this same procedure around the top of the composter. I will fill these with soil and make a sort of ‘planter’ for herbs and flowers.
The ideas for a sweet yard ornament, that just so happens to be extremely beneficial, are unlimited. The main key is to have fun doing it all! Get out there and get creative!
And once again, Happy Posting!
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.