Composting: For the Village Idiot
Step 1: What kind of composting fits you best?
Open composting is an extremely low cost way to begin composting. You simply need to create two or three pen like areas that can hold your composting material securely in your yard. This can be done using items you probably already have. Wood, bamboo, chicken wire, plastic netting, even old pallets when placed together make wonderful pens to fill with compost. Depending on your yard size and the amount of material produced where you live, an open composting system may just be too much for the average joe. If you have the space and the matter necessary to feed such a beast, open composting is extremely satisfying and I think it looks right at home in any garden (though I may bias).
I use one side to stockpile material and the other to start the composting process. I often feed my closed composter with this matter after I add new product. It really speeds up the decompositon process. It works fine on it's own those and down near the bottom of this pile I had wonderful rich black compost ready to use.
STEP 2: Fill 'er up
Spring and Autumn are incredibly satisfying times to begin composting. Your yard is usually full of all the materials that you require and their available in mass amounts: Shredded dry leaves, fresh glass clippings and green garden waste are usually all in abundant supply.
So what else do you need? You have your kitchen scaps and yard waste...now what you really need is some patience. Composting is not fast. Decomposition takes time folks. If you want to speed things up...here are a few sure fired recipes to try to get you going:
- 20 lbs of rabbit food (alfalfa pellets) one wheelbarrow full of each of the following: dry leaves, grass clippings and green garden waste.
- 4 parts fresh grass clippings, 1 part sawdust, 1 part active compost
- 3 parts fresh greass clippings, 1 part kitchen scraps, 1 part damp straw
Step 4: Stir the pot
You're going to have lots of time on your hands as nature takes it's course. You must help the process along by stirring the pot. Maybe you just want to feed it and forget it. I still suggest that you poke around in your pile every now and then. Simply use the aerating tool that came with your device, a pitch fork or even a long spare piece of rebar will suffice. Move things around, pull and poke a few times each week...it will help produce better break down and faster batches.
Step 5: You've waited 6 months +...time to harvest!
Not so quick! There are a few good practices that will help ensure your compost is safe. We are dealing with bacteria and bins that are teeming with fungi, so a few precautions are necessary.
- When the compost is harvested, you should run it through some chicken wire or netting to ensure large chunks get tossed back into the composter.
- Compost that is harvested needs to be rested, or cured before using. A wheelbarrow filled with harvested compost and then covered with a protective cover for a few weeks should work great.
- The final test: fill a plastic ziploc bag with your cured compost for 24 hours, open the back and smell. It should smell wonderfully earthy. If it is giving off yucky aromas it's not stable and not ready to use.
- Always wash vegetables grown in compost enriched soil extremely well before eating.
If I haven't scared you off yet, I hope this answers some of your questions on what to do and how to do it. Feel free to ask questions, if I don't know the answer...I know where to find them!