Composting Tips

Compost Piles

Compost piles can simply be piles of veg and fruit peels, coffee grounds, etc., meaning it is not an absolute that leaves and trimmings be added. All these products will break down to great compost even if they are never turned at all-it will just take a little longer. As long as no protein based foods or pet waste is added to the pile there will not be any unpleasant odor.

Quick Composting Tips

By providing the best conditions possible, the composting process can be made to happen much faster than it does in normal natural conditions. Whereas everything just chucked in a pile may take a year or two to break down; intensive composting can be completed in just a couple of months.

Here are some simple things you can do for more effective composting:

  • A three sided pen will help to keep your pile tidy. This can be made from star droppers and strong mesh or pallets nailed together
  • Care needs to be taken when adding lawn clippings. These are usually very moist and rich in nitrogen. As they are so wet, they'll clump together, dispelling the oxygen needed by the aerobic bacteria and the pile will get quite smelly - a strong ammonia type whiff due to anaerobic decomposition. It's best to mix clippings in thoroughly with the pile, or spread the lawn clippings out for a few days to dry a little and then add them.
  • It's important to get the right mix of carbon and nitrogen materials in a compost heap. The carbon based stuff is mainly dry; things like newspaper, straw and dry cuttings. The items rich in nitrogen will mostly be wet - vegetable scraps and lawn clippings. Ideal conditions are said to be 1 part wet/green to 25 parts dry/brown. You don't have to be this fussy, but an overly dry compost heap will take ages to break down and one too wet will start to smell. It does take a bit of practice and a watchful eye.
  • Leaves can be raked into shrubbery beds before fresh mulch is applied in the spring. The leaves will break down and enrich the quality of the soil, just don't let the leaves be more than about six inches in depth before they settle in around the plants under a light layer of fresh mulch.
  • Select a well drained area to establish your pile; preferably over soil so that worms can access it. The compost pile should be in a sunny position in colder climates or a shady area in warm climates
  • The pile should always be moist, but not dripping. If it's dry, spray water on the pile and then work it through.
  • The pile should always be warm or hot - if you dig a small hole into the pile and put your hand near it, you should feel it being warmer than the air temperature. If it's cold, you need to add more green stuff.
  • To speed up composting, break down materials into smaller pieces or shred; and turn the pile regularly

Items for Compost Piles

Things you can add to compost piles include:

  • Cardboard
  • Coffee Grounds And Filters
  • Cuttings
  • Eggshells
  • Hair
  • Lawn Clippings
  • Leaves
  • Manure From Herbivores
  • Newspaper
  • Sawdust
  • Tea Leaves
  • Vegetable Scraps

Basically, you can add any plant material that that's not too thick. Always avoid any animal protein-meat, dairy, egg or cheese based foods in compost piles.