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May 2009
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Preparing a good composting pile – the procedure

Compost is raw material for plants, an incredible boost to getting great plants. And this is something that can be made at home without too much effort or complication; however, not everybody is able to get it right. So here are some steps to ensure that you can prepare compost.

Where to make compost in:
You can make compost even under a big polythene sheet, but a bin makes the process a bit neater and cleaner. The bin just acts as a container, so having bins with different exteriors does not really matter.
The bin should have a lid, should not have gaps in the sides (to protect from natural elements), and should be easy enough for you to access (which means tall cyliners that you cannot see insides may not work).

What can you compost:
Well, almost anything organic can be put in a compost pile, and it will over a period of time convert it compost. However, there are some exclusions.
You should not put meat scraps and too oil based material, since meat attracts vermin.
Similarly, even if you have access to a lot of wood scraps, don’t put too much
What can you put ?
As I said, almost anything. Put kitchen waste (peeling, roughings, vegetable cores, fruit pulp), lawn clippings, leaves (but larger leaves need to be cut into smaller sections for faster decay), branches (shredded), paper waste, hay, newspaper, and you can guess, many other similar things.

What do you do to get started:
Once you have the bin, start preparing layers of the various compost raw material. Once you have a six inch layer of such material, you need to add a 4 inch later of ready compost (you should save a bit of compost that has been prepared earlier), or soil, or manure.
Keep on making alternate layers of these materials until you have a pile that is around 3-4 feet high.

Maintenance during the composting process:
The pile should be in a region that is not directly exposed to harsh sunlight; a semi-shaded region is ideal. Keeping under sunlight would dry it out too much.
Water conditions for the compost pile is always where most failures occur. The pile should not be wet or dry, but moist. If you add too much water, you will get a sludge and certainly not compost.
You should turn the pile once in a while, a week or later. This allows more air and oxygen into all parts of the pile, ensuring that the bacteria and fungi get everything they need to grow.
Using urine (even though it seems sometimes a bit repulsive) acts as an accelerator to the compost pile and is pretty useful.

How do you know when the pile is ready:
It can take anywhere between 2 months and one year to form compost.
When you open the compost pile and find that the ingredients have turned to a material that looks dark brown and smells somewhat like earth, the compost is literally done. However, it should still be left for a period of 2 weeks to a month before being used.
If you find some large particles still in the compost, you can either use them along with the compost, or you can add them back to the new compost pile you may be creating.

In addition to this, there are many reasons why a compost pile may fail, so the next post will contain some tips for the compost making process.

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