Like all of us, the organisms at work in your compost need three things in order to survive: Air, Water and Food.
In order to do their work quickly and efficiently, the micro-organisms in your pile require an adequate supply of oxygen. Without it, anaerobic organisms (organisms that do not require oxygen) can take over your pile, producing a very nasty odour. Turning your pile now and again will ensure that it gets the air it needs.
As a general rule of thumb, your pile should be “as damp as a wet sponge” – moist to the touch but not releasing water when squeezed.
Feed the organisms in your pile a “balanced diet” equally rich in carbon and nitrogen. One part “Browns” to one part “Greens” should do it. “Browns” tend to be woody materials such as autumn leaves, shredded newspaper and corn cobs that are high in carbon. “Greens” are nitrogen-rich and include garden refuse like grass clippings and weeds, food scraps and manure.
Dos and Don’ts
Use these ingredients for composting:
- Bone meal
- Coffee grounds
- Fruits and fruit peels
- Grass clippings (fresh)
- Tea leaves
- Vegetable and peels
- Coffee filters
- Corn cobs
- Grass clippings (dried)
- Leaves (dead)
- Paper (shredded)
- Peat moss
- Pine needles
- Tea bags
- Wood chips
Avoid using the following:
- Pet wastes may contain extremely harmful bacteria.
- Rotting meat, fish, fats and dairy products are likely to smell and may attract four-footed visitors.
- Materials contaminated with herbicides or pesticides should never be used.
- Insect-infested or diseased plants may persist in the compost.
- Weeds with mature seeds and plants with a persistent root system may not be killed by the heat of the compost.
- Rhubarb and walnut leaves contain toxins to insects or other plants so many choose not to compost them.
Key Points to Remember
- Use equal parts “greens” and “browns”.
- Mix together a variety of ingredients.
- Shred or chop all ingredients if possible.
- Build the pile large enough to retain heat.
- Turn or aerate the heap regularly to let in the air.
- Keep the pile as moist as a damp sponge.