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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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More than you Ever Want to Know about Composting
      Composting - Debunking the Bad Rap

Composting is a never ending process -- WRONG

Doesn't composting take forever?  No, depending on the conditions & materials it may take as little as 3 months. Look for the signs of a "finished" compost.  When the compost is ready to put in the garden, it will be dark, crumbly, and will have that wonderful earthy smell. It will have reduced to about one-third of its original size.

Don't be tempted to use your compost before it is finished! Your plants in the amended area can develop problems related to nitrogen deficiency or phytotoxicity.

To use compost as an amendment, start by turning the garden soil to be amended, then apply compost over the area at the rate of 1" 3" and turn it in to a 6" 8" depth.

In order to get started composting, you need to spend lots of money. -- WRONG

Although many commercial bins and tumblers are available, you don't really need them.  Many gardeners successfully produce rich compost by just piling refuse in the corner of their property.  The pile isn't the most beautiful thing in the yard, but it does make compost.  Your compost pile should be too small (minimum pile size is three feet on all sides or 27 cubic feet) and not too large either (maximum size is 5f feet on all sides or 125 cubic feet).

You need a big yard to make a compost -- WRONG

Even a small yard produces a organic materials that can be used in a compost.   You can add yard wastes such as grass, leaves, weeds, brush and small twigs.   These materials make up the lions share of your compost.  You can even add shredded black & white newspaper to the compost.   You read the paper don't you?

Compost pile stink to high heaven, don't they?  -- WRONG

Actually, no.  If the compost pile is emitting an unpleasant odor, then the pile has not been proper maintained.  Odor is a sign that something is unbalanced -- too wet, too much "green" material or too little oxygen are the most common reasons.  The pile should not be soaked, just damp.   It needs to be "stirred" every couple of days so that contents stay "fluffy" and not compacted.  If you smell a strong ammonia odor, then you have added too much grass.  Counter this by adding more dry material that has a high carbon makeup. 

If your compost starts to smell bad chances are it's too wet. Excess water fills the voids between the materials, impeding diffusion of oxygen through the compost and leading to anaerobic conditions Mixing in additional bulking agent such as dry wood chips, cardboard pieces, or newspaper strips is likely to alleviate the problem.

I hear that you can not compost rhubarb leaves.  -- WRONG

Even though the leaves are poisonous if eaten, they can safely be place in the bin.  The toxins are broken down during the decaying process. By the time the compost is ready, there will be no trace of the toxins.  So shred and compost to your heart's content.

A good compost is created by following a strict recipe. -- WRONG

While you certainly need certain "ingredients" to produce a successful compost, you don't need to fret over the proportions.  The compost needs carbon, nitrogen & oxygen to work.  Carbon comes from material like fall leaves and nitrogen comes from grass clippings, garden refuse and food scraps.   Oxygen comes from aeration when the pile is turned on a regular basis.  Composting is a natural process - organic matter rots and breaks down into rich compost.  Making compost is more art than science.

Mixing certain types of materials or changing the proportions can make a difference in the rate of decomposition. Achieving the best mix is more an art gained through experience than an exact science. The ideal ratio approaches 25 parts browns to 1 part greens. Judge the amounts roughly equal by weight. Too much carbon will cause the pile to break down too slowly, while too much nitrogen can cause odor. The carbon provides energy for the microbes, and the nitrogen provides protein.

Composting takes a lot of my time & attention. -- WRONG

Well, again no.  My favorite Master Gardner, Paul James (seen on HGTV) doesn't do anything to his compost piles.  He just leaves them alone for several months.   I prefer to turn the pile on a regular basis.  Apparently either method works.  Turning the pile does speed up the process.

Wild critters are attracted to compost piles. -- WRONG

Wild critters, like field mice or raccoons are attracted to meat products or your pets manure.  If kitchen wastes are not covered or turned under, they could cause a pest problem.  You can discourage their visitations by not putting these protein items in your compost.

Compost is just soil, right?  -- WRONG

No, soil is dirt.  Soil is a mixture of minerals, natural chemicals and organic materials. Some of the organic material found in your garden-variety soil are plant material, insects, worms, fungi and bacteria.   Compost, on the other hand, is all organic.  It is composed of is made up of organic matter, microbes and nutrients. Compost is used to condition and fertilize flowerbeds and vegetable gardens; it enriches the soil by slowly releasing nutrients, improving moisture retention, smothering weed seeds and slowing erosion.  And as Martha Stewart says, "That's a good thing."

Compost is really peat moss, right? -- WRONG

Again, a common misconception. Peat is harvested from, well,  peat bogs.  They are formed when plant material have decomposed over a long period of time. Although peat is plentiful right now it is considered a limited resource.  Mother Nature makes peat.

Layering the compost is the only way to make it. -- WRONG

Layering is traditional, but mixing the materials works as well.

Chemicals are needed to make the compost work. -- WRONG

It is true that the addition of commercially available compost activators that will speed up the process, but they are not necessary.  These commercial products contain dormant fungi and bacteria that become active in the compost and begin breaking down debris.   Remember that these same fungi are already in the garden, present in soil and in finished compost.   So tossing in compost or good garden soil will also do the trick.  I have even found that some gardeners add a can of beer every couple of months.   The yeast in the beer is good for the bacteria and such in the compost pile.

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

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