Even a composting beginner can create top-notch compost with the right recipe. Akin to cooking, composting is half art and half science. Awareness of these basic factors will help you get started. Just like a chef demands high quality ingredients, successful composting needs the best ingredients too. Good materials for composting include these: grass clippings, leaves, plant stalks, hedge trimmings, old potting soil, twigs, vegetable scraps, coffee filters and tea bags.
Bad composting materials include: diseased plants, weeds with seed heads, invasive weeds, pet feces, dead animals, bread and grains, meat or fish parts, dairy products, grease, cooking oil or oily foods.
To prepare compost, you need organic materials, micro organisms, air, water and a small quantity of nitrogen. Organic material is what you are trying to decompose. Micro organisms are tiny forms of plant and animal life, which break down organic material. A small amount of garden soil or manure supplies adequate micro organisms. The air, nitrogen and water offer an encouraging environment for the micro organisms to produce your compost. You can add enough nitrogen to the compost with a small amount of nitrogen fertilizer, which can be purchased at hardware stores or nurseries. Air is the one ingredient which you can’t have too much of. Too much nitrogen can kill microbes and too much water causes insufficient air in the pile.
If micro organisms have more surface area to feed off, the materials will decompose faster. Chopping your organic material using a shredder or lawnmower to shred materials will help them break down faster.
The compost pile is your oven. Compost piles produce heat created by the activity of millions of micro organisms. The minimum size for hot and fast composting is 3 cubic feet . But piles wider or taller than 5 feet don’t permit enough air to reach the micro organisms at the center.
Your compost piles of micro organisms work their hardest when the materials have about the moistness of a wrung-out sponge and many air passages. The air in the pile is usually consumed faster than the moisture, so the pile should be turned or mixed up now and then, to add more air. This maintains high temperatures and controls odor. Use a pitchfork, rake or other garden tools to turn materials over with.