As a gardener one of the main chores you are required to do to have healthy plants is to add rich compost to your soil. These days nurseries supply many different types of compost but at a price. Many people cannot afford the prices charged and consequently their gardens suffer.
If you have garden which can provide you with plenty of green material you have all the materials required to start your own compost heap.
There are various ways to make compost, some people use plastic compost makers and those with larger gardens make compost heaps. If you apply the techniques set out below you can use both methods to make your own compost.
How to turn your garden refuse into compost.
The ingredients required for any compost heap are leaves, twigs, grass clippings, straw, rotted manure of cows, horses or pigs, fruits and vegetables. Do not add cooked food to the pile as this will attract mice and rodents.
When starting a compost heap there is an ideal size one should use. (If you are using a plastic compost maker then the bin will decide the size.)
An ideal compost heap should be larger than a cubic metre and smaller than 5 cubic metres. The reason for the size of the heap is to ensure that there is enough heat generated to assist in the breakdown of the various materials. A compost heap that is too large will not allow enough air to circulate through the pile or allow water penetration into the pile. The surface area of a compost heap determines how much water and air penetrates the compost heap.
The depth of a compost heap has a large influence on the compost heap. If it is not deep enough (approximately a metre) it will not generate enough heat and so the green materials in it will not breakdown.
When placing materials into your compost heap its a good idea to cut up or shred larger pieces of greenery into smaller pieces as this will assist in the materials breaking down faster.
In an ideal compost heap you should have layers of different materials more or less stacked in the following order.
The first or bottom layer of your compost heap should consist of coarse materials such as thin sticks or twigs or thin branches from a hedge. The reason for the coarser material is to facilitate air circulation into your compost heap.
The second layer should be a mixture of grass clippings, leaves dry or green (preferably a mixture of the two) which assists in balancing this layer of the compost heap.
The third layer should be some soil, in some instances your lawn mower will pick up soil as well as grass clippings which will assist in the soil aspect. The soil is required to add micro organisms to your pile. You can use soil from old pots where plants have died or otherwise use excess soil from your beds or wherever else you can find it in your garden.
In an ideal compost heap the next layer should be rotted cow or horse manure, this you can get from your nursery if you want to add manure to your pile. Remember that raw manure attracts flies and could smell so look out for well rotted manure. Its not imperative that you add manure but if you want really good compost you should do so.
The layers of materials listed should not be excessively big. About twenty centimetres of each material is good. Once you have added all four layers to your initial pile its time to start again adding the same layers onto the top of the exisiting layers until the pile is approximately a metre high.
Once your compost heap is about a cubic metre in size it is time to start a second heap another heap.
Why another pile?
Building a compost heap is like cooking a stew. You don't add raw ingredients to a stew when all the other ingredients are half cooked.
Your work on your first heap is not yet finished.
Let the first heap lie for about six weeks and then turn it with a fork. This could be quite hard work especially as you have to turn the pile every few weeks until you have a good rich brown soil.
By the time your first heap is ready to use your second heap should be starting to take shape.
Continue making your own compost by rinsing and repeating the above process.
Email : Geoff Fairman
6 Bothma Street, Monte Vista 7460 South Africa
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Article posted 28.9.2011 - Page update5.5.2016
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