Friday, February 10, 2012

Compost Tips

-- Planning on Starting a Compost This Year? --

A lot of people are getting savvy to the benefits of composting and people are writing us to say they are so inspired by our blog and radio show that they are going to start their own composting systems.  Therefore I thought it might be a good idea to offer a few tips to get you started on the right foot...

First of of all, composts need oxygen and larger piles can become compacted due to their weight, so you might have to turn them every couple of weeks. If you want a really fast compost, turn it once a week. 

Keep it moist, and cover each contribution from the kitchen or staff room to the compost with soil or grass or leaves, helping to deter pests and flies and smells.

Avoid meat scraps and dairy products because it attracts pests

Pine needles and wood ashes are OK - but too much pine needles will cause the pile to be acidic, while too much wood ash will make the pile on the alkaline side. Therefore some judicial layering of pine needles with wood ashes, in amongst the other composting ingredients is the best formula

Avoid pet waste, which carry diseases and take a long time to safely break down… and even when the waste matures, it will never be safe to use on a garden. Pet composts can be done separately, and the mature humus can be added to landscape trees and non-edible flower beds.

Don’t add dishwater or buckets of cleaning liquids from floor and wall washing activities. Pour that detergent water on your lawn or feed the trees with it instead. 

Walnut leaves and rhubarb leaves contain an acid that suppresses plant growth and reduces seed germination, but small amounts - like a handful at a time - are OK.

When it comes to grass, I like to leave the clippings on the lawn where they will break down adding nutrients and mulching the soil, feeding the worms and reducing watering needs. Besides it just takes too much time and labor to wheelbarrow loads of grass clippings for layering in the compost. However I do accept the clippings and leaves from neighbors for the compost. Grass clippings contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium… so sending them to the landfill just doesn’t make any sense. Never add large amounts all at once, instead have a pile on the side that you can grab a handful from when adding other organics.

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