Making compost is essentially about the care and feeding of microorganisms. These micro shredders chew up the contents of your compost pile. Then the bacteria and fungi which concurrently grows with the microorganisms break the chewed up contents down further into the form that your plants can use by turning it into gardening gold.
Microorganisms like to eat things that are high in carbon like leaves, wood chips, shredded paper and even cardboard- things that are brown. They also like nitrogen rich goodies like weeds, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, smashed up egg shells and old plants. Keep greasy things and human or animal feces out of your compost pile.
The trick to really rich compost- other than quality ingredients- is the proportions of those carbons to nitrogens mixed together along with air and water. Combine your brown carbons 60% to green nitrogens 40%. Layering, like with lasagna, is key. Start with a brown layer and lay green over it, water the two and repeat until all your ingredients are used. Keep adding to your pile until it is at least four feet square.
What makes the compost gourmet? Adding a couple of extra ingredients will make up for any missing micro-nutrients. Add blood, bone meal, kelp meal, finely ground granite sand or even a touch of lime. Add ingredients in 1 pound amounts and mix well.
If your ratios are correct the pile will heat up as the organisms get to work shredding, eating and multiplying. Monitor the heat in the middle of the pile with a compost thermometer. The center needs to be between 135-155 degrees and STAY THERE for at least three days. This maintenance of the heat ensures that bad organisms and weed seeds are killed.
When the temperature begins to drop turn your compost pile, add a little water and let it heat up again. You must do this three times before you leave it alone and let the pile continue its transformation for six months. This half year period gives the microorganisms time to completely process the waste into gourmet plant food. While you are waiting for this to happen you can decide what your going to plant in your garden.
By Cathleen V. Carr
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