Composting requires a balance of materials to make the soil-like end product. Micro-organisms, worms, fungi and insects aid in the decay of the materials. Compost amends soil by adding nutrients at various speeds and improving moisture, drainage and texture. It balances the soil pH and helps prevent pests and diseases. Composting saves time, money and keeps waste out of landfills.
Different methods and techniques make composting easy to do. You can compost by making a pile of materials, building a bin or buying a special container. Hot composting decays the products faster and requires more care in balancing the materials and maintaining the pile. For slow compost, add the substance and allow it to sit for approximately a year or until broken down.
Materials that add bulk aerate the compost. These materials break down slowly due to the low amounts of nitrogen, moisture and nutrients. Use wood chips and saw dust for bulk. While straw, hay and corn stalks also add bulk, they may contain seeds and work best in hot composting.
A compost pile needs high nitrogen and carbon compounds. It also requires moisture. Utilize kitchen and garden waste to meet these needs. Vegetable and fruit scraps work well; when using weeds, be sure they have not gone to seed. Add coffee grounds and untreated lawn clippings. Include manure from poultry, dairy animals and rabbits, if available.
Some composting materials contain a balance of energy and bulk. Use alone or combine with the other materials. Compost leaves and trimmings from trees and shrubs. You can add horse manure with bedding.
Some substances should not be used in compost. They attract pests, smell, contain bacteria or decay slowly. Do not use pet or human waste, including cat litter. Avoid items that decompose at a slow rate such as grease, oil, dairy and bones. Meat and fish scraps attract pests and cause the compost to stink. Dispose of diseased plants rather than adding them to the compost.
Compost breaks down faster if the materials are in smaller pieces. Chop up kitchen and garden waste. Leave limbs and large pieces of thick items out of the pile unless chipped. Mix the elements regularly to add air and prevent compaction. During dry spells, check the moisture content. Water the compost if it is dry. Cover during wet seasons to prevent too much moisture.