Compost is a rich, dark type of soil made from decomposed organic ingredients that is a nutritious, slow-release food for your plants. When you first start your compost bin, you might be impatient to harvest the soil, but a compost pile can take up to a year to be ready to put on your plants. Giving the billions of hungry microbes in your compost the optimum mix of air, water and warmth is the best way to ensure speedy decomposition.
Make sure your compost bin is at least 3 feet deep and across and 4 feet tall. If a bin is smaller than this, the compost won’t heat up enough to get going, and if it’s deeper than 4 feet, adequate moisture and air may not be able to reach the center. Fill the bin completely to make decomposition faster and more effective
Maintain the right mix of green and brown composting material. Green material includes nitrogenous matter like kitchen waste, grass cuttings or green plants you’ve pulled up. Brown material is things like leaves and dried plant matter, and is rich in carbon. Ideally, the compost bin should contain about a 50/50 mix of brown and green.
Mix your compost regularly by turning the pile with a pitchfork. Some store-bought compost bins are built with a handle to turn it, which is considerably less work. Turning compost increases air and water circulation, so you should turn the pile at least once a month.
Keep the compost moist, but not wet. Compost piles do best in partial sun where they get some heat but not enough to evaporate the water too quickly. Spray water over the compost if it’s getting too dry, and cover it with a tarp if heavy rainfall is getting it too wet. Soak dry leaves before adding them to the bin, and make sure the bin has adequate drainage.
Mix in large amounts of green or brown material when you add it. Small amounts of kitchen waste can just be tossed on the top of the pile, but when you add a large bag of grass cuttings or garden waste, mix it in right away.
Chop up the material you add to the pile. Smaller pieces decompose faster than larger ones, and large woody sticks and branches will take a long time to break down. You can cut up leaves and plant cuttings by laying them on the ground and going over them with a rotary motor. Sticks and branches should be broken up by hand or run through a shredder.
Add a few scoops of animal manure to boost decomposition. Animal manure is rich in nitrogen which will feed the bacteria and heat up the compost. Chicken and cow manure or bat guano are good compost additions because they do not contain live weed seeds that will grow in your garden later.
Sprinkle human or animal urine into the compost bin if you don’t find this too objectionable. Urine is full of nitrogen and potassium, which will make the microbes more active. Don’t add urine more than once a month because it can make the compost too salty for the worms and microbes living there.