Making Good Compost

Experienced gardeners know the life is in the soil. Not all soils are created equal, and sometimes they need a little help from us to supply our garden plants with the optimal environment for growth. It is possible to have soil that looks good but is dead. We may not know the difference, but our plants do.

What can you do?

We can't create life, but we can create... COMPOST!

Compost can be described as that living part of the soil. It is composed of decomposing natural materials such as grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, manure, etc. The key to good compost lies not in the materials themselves as much as the lifeforms they support. In mixing up your own batch of compost your goal is to create the best possible living conditions for the microorganisms that will bring you the final results.

The time that it takes to go from yard waste to "black gold"should be about six months, depending on the materials used and your attention to working the pile. Some things you can do to hasten the decomposition process is to shred your leaves with a chipper / shredder, add beneficial bacteria, or sift out the larger chunks before curing.

Your composting experiment might look something like this:

Find a spot in your yard not too hot but not too shady. It should be an inconspicuous spot (and preferably away from dining areas.)

Dump your grass clippings and yard waste into 4x4 piles. Try to get a mix of textures using other materials like wood chips, sawdust or horse manure.

Turn your piles several times during the first week. You will notice a lot of heat in this initial decomposing stage.

When the piles' temperature drops, turn them again. This will replenish the oxygen. Continue to turn your piles every week to 10 days over the next several months or until you notice the piles stop giving off heat.

After the piles have cooled and do not heat up again, begin the curing process by turning the piles only once or twice over the next two months.