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May 2008
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Composting tips

More and more people these days are composting, and for good reason. Composting is a simple process which offers many benefits. When you turn your garden refuse and kitchen scraps into compost, you are creating fertilizer for your plants and conserving landfill space. Compost will improve your soil, giving it the ability to hold moisture and drain well. Even hard soils will be improved by adding compost.
Composting can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Compost bins and tumblers can be purchased or you can make your own, or simply leave your compost materials in a pile without a bin.
To make compost, you’ll need a good mix of “brown” and “green” material. Brown materials are things like dried leaves, coffee grounds, shredded paper and straw. Green materials are grass clippings, fresh garden refuse and kitchen scraps. Add the brown and green ingredients in layers,. Avoid adding bones, meat scraps or dairy products to your compost. These items decompose slowly and will attract animals to your compost pile.
Manure is also a good addition to compost, but manure from meat-eating animals should be avoided. Manure contains a great deal of nitrogen and also beneficial microbes that will help the composting process. Manure makes a great fertilizer, but it
should be composted before adding it to the garden because fresh manure is so strong or “hot” that it will burn tender plants.
A compost pile will heat up and cook more quickly if it is kept moist. Compost should be as moist as a sponge that has been wrung out. Too much or too little moisture will slow the decomposition process. A compost pile that is cooking properly will feel warm or hot inside the pile. If the temperature inside the pile is no warmer than the air temperature, the pile needs more green material and perhaps more moisture.
Air circulation is also important for a compost pile. A compost pile that is regularly mixed or turned will decompose much faster than one that is never turned. But given enough time, even a compost pile that is never turned will eventually decompose.
Concerned about the smell of a compost pile or worried that it will attract rodents? Simply bury fresh materials in the middle of the pile or cover the smelly material with some soil. Burying the material in the pile will add some needed air circulation, and the addition of soil will also include some helpful microbes.
Finished compost will look like good black soil and can be added liberally to your garden. Make your own compost for your garden and you will soon understand why it is called black gold.

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