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Recycling: The Compost Pile
 

 

We will describe the most basic pile that can be built, if you want to have a more efficient composting process you should check the websites listed bellow.

To do a good compost you need the right ingredients, a right proportion between carbon-rich materials and nitrogen-rich material. The proportion should ideally be 25 part of browns for 1 part of green.

Carbon rich material or browns:

  • dry leaves
  • straw
  • wood chips

Nitrogen rich material or green:

  • grass clippings
  • kitchen scraps

 

Following is a chart listing common composting materials:

Type of Material

Use it?

Carbon/ Nitrogen

Details

Algae, seaweed and lake moss

Yes

N

Good nutrient source.

Ashes from coal or charcoal

No

n/a

May contain materials bad for plants.

Ashes from untreated, unpainted wood

Careful

Neutral

Fine amounts at most. Can make the pile too alkaline and suppress composting.

Beverages, kitchen rinse water

Yes

Neutral

Good to moisten the middle of the pile. Don't over-moisten the pile.

Bird droppings

Careful

N

May contain weed seeds or disease organisms.

Cardboard

Yes

C

Shred into small pieces if you use it. Wetting it makes it easier to tear. If you have a lot, consider recycling instead.

Cat droppings or cat litter

No

n/a

May contain disease organisms. Avoid.

Coffee ground and filters

Yes

N

Worms love coffee grounds and coffee filters.

Compost activator

Not required, but ok.

Neutral

You don't really need it, but it doesn't hurt.

Cornstalks, corn cobs

Yes

C

Best if shredded and mixed well with nitrogen rich materials.

Diseased plants

Careful

N

If your pile doesn't get hot enough, it might not kill the organisms, so be careful. Let it cure several months, and don't use resulting compost near the type of plant that was diseased.

Dog droppings

No

n/a

Avoid.

Dryer lint

Yes

C

Compost away! Moistening helps.

Eggshells

Yes

O

Break down slowly. Crushing shells helps.

Fish scraps

No

n/a

Can attract rodents and cause a stinky pile.

Hair

Yes

N

Scatter so it isn't in clumps.

Lime

No

n/a

Can kill composting action. Avoid.

Manure (horse, cow, pig, sheep, goat, chicken, rabbit)

Yes

N


Great source of nitrogen. Mix with carbon rich materials so it breaks down better.

Meat, fat, grease, oils, bones

No

n/a

Avoid.

Milk, cheese, yogurt

Careful

Neutral

Put it deep in the pile to avoid attracting animals.

Newspaper

Yes

C

Shred it so it breaks down easier. It is easy to add too much newspaper, so recycle instead if you have a lot.

Oak leaves

Yes

C

Shredding leaves helps them break down faster. They decompose slowly. Acidic.

Sawdust and wood shavings (untreated wood)

Yes

C

You'll need a lot of nitrogen materials to make up for the high carbon content. Don't use too much, and don't use treated woods.

Pine needles and cones

Yes

C


Don't overload the pile. Also acidic and decomposes slowly.

Weeds

Careful

N


Dry them out on the pavement, then add later.

Sod

Careful

N

Make sure the pile is hot enough, so grass doesn't continue growing.

Source Compost guide

Find a spot:

  • do not put the pile against a structure, it brings bugs
  • the area needs to be well drained
  • it should be easy to access
  • if the weather tends to be cool the pike should be on a sunny spot in order to capture the heat
  • the pile should be in a place where it is protected from the wind so it will not freeze to easily
  • the pile should not be on a spot where it will dry too quickly
  • it is better to build the pile over soil or lawn

Composting outside and the seasons:

  • in regions where the winter is cold the best time to start a pile is the spring
  • the materials provided by each season should be stored in order to be used all year long when needed (for example the leaves in autumn)

 

Different type of pile exist you can use a compost bin or just make a pile somewhere in your garden.

Build the pile:

  • the first option is to just throw your materials in when they become available
  • a more elaborated one consists in:
    • wet the ground under the pile
    • put twigs and unshredded browns at the bottom of the pile
    • alternate browns and greens layer
    • add water as you build your pile
    • end with a layer of browns

The harvest:

  • the compost is ready to be harvest when :
    • you can not identify the different materials
    • the pile looks like dark soil
    • the pile will have a sweet and woodsy smell
  • the harvest will be made from 6 months to 2 years after you started the pile depending on the methods and materials used
  • if you add new materials during the process, you can harvest the part that has become compost

Tips:

  • if you want the composting to go on as much as possible during the winter choose a black container and put it in a sunny spot
  • it is possible to shred the browns in order to have them decomposing more easily
  • if you live in an excessively dry or wet region it can be good to cover the pile with black plastic garbage bag
  • you can monitor the temperature of the pile, it should become hot within few days and there should be a heat pick each time you turn it
  • you can monitor the moisture the material should feel like a “wrung out sponge”
  • you can turn the pile in order to decrease the composting period

 

 

Troubleshooting Composting Problems

Problems

Possible Causes

Solution

Damp and warm only in the middle of the pile.

Pile could be too small, or cold weather might have slowed composting


If you are only composting in piles, make sure your pile is at least 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. With a bin, the pile doesn't need to be so large.

Nothing is happening.Pile doesn't seem to be heating up at all.

1. Not enough nitrogen
2. Not enough oxygen
3. Not enough moisture
4. Cold weather?
5. Compost is finished.

1. Make sure you have enough nitrogen rich sources like manure, grass clippings or food scraps.
2. Mix up the pile so it can breathe.
3. Mix up the pile and water it with the hose so that there is some moisture in the pile. A completely dry pile doesn't compost.
4. Wait for spring, cover the pile, or use a bin.

Matted leaves or grass clippings aren't decomposing.

Poor aeration, or lack of moisture.

Avoid thick layers of just one material. Too much of something like leaves, paper or grass clippings don't break down well. Break up the layers and mix up the pile so that there is a good mix of materials. Shred any big material that isn't breaking down well.

Stinks like rancid butter, vinegar or rotten eggs.

Not enough oxygen, or the pile is too wet, or compacted.


Mix up the pile so that it gets some aeration and can breathe. Add course dry materials like straw, hay or leaves to soak up excess moisture. If smell is too bad, add dry materials on top and wait until it dries out a bit before you mix the pile.

Odor like ammonia.

Not enough carbon.

Add brown materials like leaves, straw, hay, shredded newspaper, etc.

Attracts rodents, flies, or other animals.

Inappropriate materials (like meat, oil, bones), or the food-like material is too close to the surface of the pile.

Bury kitchen scraps near the center of the pile. Don't add inappropriate materials to compost. Switch to a rodent-proof closed bin.

Attracts insects, millipedes, slugs, etc.

This is normal composting, and part of the natural process.

Not a problem.

Fire ant problems.


Pile could be too dry, not hot enough, or has kitchen scraps too close to the surface.

Make sure your pile has a good mix of materials to heat up, and keep it moist enough.

Source: Compost guide

Thank you for their information to:

Compost guide

Master Composter

 

 

 


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Compost guide
http://compostguide.com/

Mastercomposter
http://www.mastercomposter.com