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How to Compost

Compost bins can be purchased or home made.There are a number of different ways to compost — some take less time and effort, and some take more. The main things to consider are how much time you have to spend managing the pile, how much green waste your yard generates, and how quickly you want to have finished, usable compost. Here are two common methods.

HOLDING UNITS

THE “NO FUSS” METHOD —

ALSO KNOWN AS “ADD AS YOU GO”

This method uses one pile or bin — as a “holding unit” to contain garden wastes. This is also sometimes called the “static pile” method, because you don’t turn the pile very much.

Holding units, or static piles, are the least labor and least time-consuming way to compost.

HOW IT WORKS

  • Build, or purchase, a bin-approximately three feet square. Or just start a pile.
  • Fill it up, as materials are available.
  • Note: Take care not to add fresh grass clippings in large layers. Let clippings dry first, or mix with other materials.
  • Water pile occasionally
  • When bin is full, start a new pile
  • To finish composting, it helps to remove bin and turn pile
  • Or, just take material from the bottom of the pile

ADVANTAGES:

  • Low maintenance, little turning required
  • Doesn’t take much time or effort
  • Good for lower volumes of material

DISADVANTAGES:

  • Slower method
  • Not good if you have large volumes all year
  • Hard to compost brushy, woody materials
  • Seeds from weeds won’t be sterilized

TURNING UNITS

THE “ACTIVE PILE” METHOD

Turning units are a series of three or more bins that allow garden wastes to be turned on a regular schedule. Turning units are appropriate for gardeners who have a larger volume of materials and/or want to produce compost faster.

HOW IT WORKS

  • Get two or three bins ready. Each bin should be about one cubic yard in size.
  • Fill one bin, layering green materials with brown. Try for 50% green, 50% brown.
  • Water the pile as you add layers. Should be like a damp sponge.
  • Pile will probably heat up. When it cools down-after a few days or a week, turn the pile into an empty bin and water again.
  • Continue turning until pile no longer heats up and materials decomposed.

ADVANTAGES:

  • Good for larger volumes of garden trimmings
  • Produces compost quickly
  • Sterilizes weed seeds and some plant diseases
  • Better for woody materials

DISADVANTAGES:

  • Requires greater amount of time to manage-piles are turned and watered regularly
  • Must accumulate about one cubic yard of material before building pile-in order to get the pile to heat up.