Morning. Tuesday October 19, 2010 9:17 A.M.
I have decided, recently, to really work hard on the outside of my house. This means getting my gardens into tip top shape. One aspect of that is making good soil which is easily done with compost. But I don’t know anything about compost. At least I didn’t. I pulled out all my gardening books and started reading up on it, and searching around on the internet.
Today I took all my knowledge and made myself a compost bin. Here is a step-by-step set of instructions showing you how to successfully make compost.
The first thing I learned is that compost decomposes better and faster if it is warm, and the best way to keep it warm is to throw it all into a big pile so that it insulates itself. The problem though is keeping the pile big and the compost on top of itself. The best way to do that is to create a three-sided bin, so that the compost doesn’t spill over the side of the pile, but is contained (you leave one side open so you can mix up the compost with a pitch fork). Here is an example photo I found on ehow.com
I opted to build my compost bin behind my shed, so that I did not have to worry about building a frame or structural support. That was already provided by the my fences and one wall of my shed. All I had to do was attach sheets of plywood. Here are some photos of us doing that.
There are many sources that say you should line the bottom of your bin with wood planks or bricks for drainage purposes, but the source I chose to follow recommends leaving the bare ground, because boards and brick make it hard to turn your compost and having exposed soil allows the compost worms to easily come up through the ground and start breaking everything down. If you look at the photo above, you will notice bare ground. Below is a photo of McCann clearing the ground for this purpose.
Once we had the bin made, we threw in all of our grass clipping from the week.
Compost needs to be a 50/50 ratio of carbon and nitrogen. Nitrogen comes from your grass clippings, kitchen waste and manure (like chicken manure. as another side note, to keep vermin away from your pile, do not put meat or dairy on your pile. I have read about gardeners that throw everything but the kitchen sink on their compost pile. Even things like dead rats, dog and cat droppings, and the occasional python. But after reading about the varmints that can be attracted to the pile, I opted out of meat and diary.) Carbon comes from things such mulched leaves and shrubs, paper or straw. In order to create our 50/50 mix, we added paper from our recycling bin and branches from bush we cut down. We laid out the paper on our lawn and ran over it with our lawn mower to chop it up. (You don’t have to mow your paper, but it helps speed the decaying process if your contents are chopped down into small bits).
This made a much bigger mess than I expected, but I ran the mower over it a few times and it picked up 97% of the paper. I’ll warn you, it is a little time-consuming.
I then dumped the paper out of my lawn mower’s grass catcher onto the compost pile. and Mixed it up for my 50/50 ratio.
I also did the same with some branches we cut off of a bush.
Another tidbit to consider when making compost is the amount of compost needed. Gardens generally need three times the acreage to produce an adequate amount of foilage for composting. This is a problem considering that most suburban homes, like mine, don’t have enough space to grow the needed leaves, branches, etc. The answer though is simple. Steal your neighbor’s trash. No, not their empty soda cans and plastic bags. But you can ask your friends and family to save their grass clippings, tree cuttings, kitchen waste, and excess paper and paper products. I make it as easy for them as possible. I provide them containers or garbage cans to discard their waste that and pick it up my self. My neighbor Mindy raises chickens for fresh eggs (she is an up and coming pop singer. Find her at http://www.mindygledhill.com). I made a deal with her. She doesn’t have to clean out her chicken coop, because I do it for her, in exchange for her chicken manure. She said, “You can have all the poop you want, Luhi.” My other neighbor, Jill, put a bunch of bags of yard waste out to the curb. I snuck over and stole them for my compost pile. (Truth be told, she just wasn’t home when I saw them. I wanted to take them before the garbage man did.)
It takes about 6 month to make compost (about a year if you don’t chop or mulch your ingredients). But, once you have successfully made your compost, it will help you have rich soil for your garden.
Monty Don is the gardener I follow the most. He is out of Britain.