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Last Updated on:  12/16/2015 04:00 PM

Joy Blooms in the Garden

Joy Blooms  -- Compost It

Everything you ever wanted to know about composting:  Let's get Started   
Basic How-To    Tip & Tricks
    FAQ     Build a Bin     What's In?     Brown & Green    
Now What?     What's went Wrong    Unusual Compost Items      Say It Ain't So     
Composting Learning Resources & Supplies

Last Edited on:  12/16/2015 08:07 AM

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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ - about Composting
(Answers to your composting questions)

Why compost?

It is FREE.  It is good for the environment.  It is nature's way of fertilizing.  Composting Learning Resources & Supplies

Should I shred or break up my waste first?

Yes, smaller pieces of organic material will decompose faster than large pieces.  As a general rule thereís no need to shred nitrogen rich green materials.  These items have a high moisture content.  They easily breakdown quickly.

You can add "bulking agents" such as straw, dry leaves, paper, or cardboard in the mix to increase proper air flow.

Where should I set up my compost?

Create your pile directly on ground that has good drainage - not on concrete. Choose a sunny location and once that is protected from wind.

What can I compost?

Think organic - if it grows from a seed it goes it.  If it comes from a four-legged animal it stays out.   Kitchen scrapes and garden waste can be composted. Do not add meat, fish, bones, fats and oils, dairy products, or dog and cat droppings. Do not add ashes or glossy magazines.  Organic matter will decompose faster if you take the time to shred it or cut it up into smaller pieces.

As a rule of thumb, if in doubt, leave it out!    List of what goes in and what should stay out of the compost pile.

Why should I compost instead of throwing organics away?

Well, it is part of the nature cycle of life - organic material returning earth.  This is natures way of replacing nutrients in the soil.  Being green-conscious it is better to put the organic material to work in your garden that to throw it in a landfill someplace.  What a waste to have all that wonderful compost in the landfill where it never will be used. List of Brown & Green Materials

How often should I turn or mix the pile?

Keep in mind that the more frequently you turn or mix the pile, the better the pile is aerated making the microorganisms that live in your compost very happy.  These happy microorganisms will do their thing and speed up the decomposition of the materials.  Turning the pile increases the heat. It is time to turn when the pile begins to cool.  After a point of being turned several times, the pile will no longer heat up.  This is normal.  Now these happy little microorganisms have done their job. It is time for you and your compost pile to rest.  Other insects and earthworms take over will finish the compost.

When mixing the pile, be sure to:

  • Use a pitchfork - works better than a shovel.
  • Begin at the outside edges of the bin and work your way to the inside.  Doing this insures that all the material will be properly heated and composted.
  • Only add water if your pile is not moist like a damp sponge.  A soggy compost pile is not a good thing.
How long until I have finished - ready to use - compost?

The answer is that it is really up to you.  Under ideal conditions, a finished compost can be ready in as little time as a month or so. Under less than ideal conditions it can take as long as 12 to 24 months. Composting is a much an art as it is a science.  The factors which influence composting time are the frequency that you turn the compost, the balance of greens and browns organic material that you put in the compost, the moisture level that you maintain and of course the weather.

Like any project, the more time and care your take in making and managing to pile, the quicker and better results you will have.  Composting is not a project your create and forget about it.

Some people add composting worms (available at many garden centers or online) or add a compost activator.  A compost activator contains micro-organisms which help speed up the decay.   You can also try adding a shovelful of soil or horse manure (if you can get it) periodically to speed up the composting process.

I have read that an immature compost can be produced as quickly as four weeks with hot batch composting, while a mature compost may take twelve weeks to complete.  I am doing more research here.

How is compost made?

Compost is made by the decomposition of organic materials.  Microbes feed on the organic material.  As they feed the material is transformed into fertile compost.

Can I compost grass clippings?  I have a lot of them.

Yes!  A word to the wise --  grass clippings will compress easily.  This is bad because the compression pushes out air and will turn slimy.  No one wants slimy compost.  Some gardeners suggest creating a separate pile for grass clippings.  They then add materials from this pile to their regular pile. 

I prefer to leave grass clipping on the lawn.  I don't bag my grass clippings.  The clippings break down on the lawn, decay naturally and feed the grass.   I find that I don't need to apply fertilizer as often since I started this practice.

I have a yard & garden full of weeds, can I compost them?

You can certainly compost weeds, but do so before they go to seed.  Be especially careful with perennial weeds like dandelions and bindweed.  Their seeds will sprout that begin growing in your compost.  As an alternative, place weeds in tied up black bags for a few weeks.  They will die in the plastic bag and won't be able to produce themselves when you empty the bag into your compost.

What happens if the Bin freezes?

As my nephew would say. "Don't worry about it."   When the pile freezes, the decomposition process will, of course, slow down.  It may even stops all together.  But, never fear, when sping comes the compost will thaw and the decomposition begins again.  Some people says that the freezing may actually be beneficial.

Can I put worms from my garden into the Compost?  

Earth worms and other organisms will naturally enter the Compost Bin through the bottom.  That is one of the reasons you build your bin directly on the ground.  You can buy Special composting worms are available online or at garden canters. 

What kind of paper and card can be composted?

Shredded newspapers and cardboard can safely be added to the compost.  However, not all papers is suitable for composting.  Waxed paper, frozen food paper packages, and packages used to hold liquids are not suitable for the compost.  These have a thin film of plastic, foil or wax that does not biodegrade.

My compost bin is infested with lots of little flies, how can I get rid of them?

These tiny flies are fruit flies, they help break down the fruit and vegetable material in your bin and are a harmless part of composting. To help reduce their numbers, make sure that you bury any fruit and vegetable scraps deep under other garden material in the compost bin. Donít be tempted to use fly spray as this will kill off other useful creatures in the bin.

Why is moisture so critical to compost?  

A common mistake for first-time compostors is allowing the compost pile to get too dry.  Grab a handful of compost, if it does not feel a moist as a wrung-out sponge - it is too dry.  I have read that the wrung-out sponge means that your pile has a 40 - 60 percent moisture rate.

The hazard of a too dry pile is that many of the microorganisms will die causing a halt to or delaying the decaying process.  If the pile is too wet, it will stink.  When you squeeze a handful of compost, and just a few drops of water fall, then your compost has the right amount of moisture. 

During the dry hot season in your area, your would be wise to add water on a regular basis.   Then during then rainy season, you would be wise to cover your pile to avoid excess moisture. 

Do I need chemical accelerators?

No. Nature takes care of every thing on her own. 

Will my bin smell?

The smell should be like rich earth.  Composting should produce only a rich earthy smell. If a sharp ammonia smell is produced it is usually due to too much grass and not enough paper. Add some shredded paper and mix in to get it smelling sweet again.

Are the little flies around my bin a concern?

These little flies are Fruit flies and are harmless.  They are most common in the summertime.  They are attracted to the kitchen waste in a your bin.  If they bother you, just cover the bin contents with a layer of soil.  Generally they will go away in a day or two. 

How can I use my finished compost?

Finished compost has many uses in the garden - both vegetable and flower gardens.  It can be used around the base of trees and in indoor plants.  It can be spread on the lawn.  See:  Uses for compost.

My compost is forming clumps or mats?

Clumps and matting of materials form because the compost pile was not turn often enough or well enough.  Try making smaller layers and turn thoroughly  with a pitchfork.

Why do you compost?

For me it make more sense to throw organic waste in the bin instead of throwing it into a landfill.  There is bound to be a saving - less for disposal, less need for landfills, and less material to be pickup. Hey, organic material in the landfill produces methane gas.  Isn't methane gas a contributor to global warming?

Something is wrong.  My compost bin stinks!  It is slimy!  What is wrong?

There is generally one cause for the smell -- there are too many "greens."   You are probably overloaded with grass clippings. Fix this problem by mixing in more dry materials like shredded paper or cardboard.

Help, there are rats in my compost bin!

Never, ever, never, ever put meat, fat or dairy products in the bin.  The smell of these food items will attract rodents. 

Nothing is happening in my bin, what do I do?

Chances are that the materials are too big and too dry.  Try adding more "greens" such as grass clippings and  water more frequently.  It is important for you to turn the pile.  You should increase your turning schedule. The pile cannot decompose without air.  See: Compost Troubleshooting

There is a smell like ammonia.  What is wrong?

The most likely cause is that there is not enough carbon in the pile.  Your fix is to add more "brown" materials such as stray, hay, leaves or shredded newspaper.   See: Compost Troubleshooting

It is OK to use the liquid which comes off the pile?

Sure, this liquid is "compost tea".  You can also make it by soaking a shovelful of finished compost in a bucket of water for a week.  The finished compost tea needs to be diluted before applying in your garden or house plants.  1:10 is a reasonable ratio (1 part tea to 10 parts water or rainwater).  For house plants increase the ratio to 1:20.

Can I use compost as a potting soil?

No, at least don't use it alone.  Compost is not a substitute for soil.  Instead mix 2 parts compost to 3 parts soil.

Can I put orange and grapefruit peels in the mix?

Okie-Dokie, the peeling & pulp are great in the bin.  They contain many essential nutrients.  Be aware that the peelings will take longer to break down.  It is best to break them into small pieces.

Other questions??? email me.

Joy Blooms . . . Compost It!

Everything you ever wanted to know about composting:  Let's get Started   
Basic How-To    Tip & Tricks
    FAQ     Build a Bin     What's In?     Brown & Green    
Now What?     What's went Wrong    Unusual Compost Items      Say It Ain't So     

Joy Blooms . . . in the garden!

Gardening in Lubbock    Month-by-Month   Out Door Projects    Butterfly Gardens     It's for the Birds    Gardening Lessons from Daddy       
        Compost It!     Gardening Tips /Design     Veggies Anyone?    Gardening Links       Seed/Bulb Resources  My Garden Photo Albums

Home Page Gardening Lubbock Beagles Contact Us

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