Create a Compost in Your Backyard

Egg shells, banana peels and worms. Oh, my. What do these make up. Compost. It’s an easy process that turns leftovers, garbage and yard waste into rich black dirt. With some help from those little wigglers and microbes.

Composting is an age old process of using not only your yard waste such as grass clippings and weeds but your leftovers and kitchen scraps to make rich dirt for your garden or landscaping. You can use any biodegradable waste such as egg shells, coffee grounds, food scraps and vegetable trimmings and place them in a container or area for composting.

The actions of biodegrading using moisture, heat, microbes and worms breaks down the organic things you put in your compost pile and turns it into dirt. You have to have all these ingredients to turn the organic stuff into dirt quickly; biodegradable waste, heat, and moisture. The worms only make the process go quicker.

The waste is broken down by small microbes that eat the edible stuff and turn it into soil. The worms also help in this as they eat the stuff and do the same. The pile will get warm if it is done properly. The wetness will help the microbes and worms live in the pile and break down the organic matter.

There are really two methods to composting, a pile and a bin. You can just pile materials on the ground or in some kind of fence or wall and compost away. Wherever you place your compost it should be two feet from any structure. Internal temperatures in a compost pile can reach 140 degrees. Or you can use some kind of bin barrel or can. Using a bin or can makes it neater and you can turn the compost easier. But it is done in smaller quantities.

When you start a compost whether it’s on the ground or in a bin you have to wet the area first, put some twigs or other similar material on the bottom to get air into the bottom of the pile. Twigs and small branches are perfect but bark can be used. This is to get air to the bottom of the pile. Then add your material. The material can be anything that is organic; weeds, grass clippings, food scraps and trimmings or animal wastes.

You should alternate your material and some twigs and such in layers to allow air to come into the pile. This will speed up the composting process. Wet the layers before putting the next one on. This is necessary for the composting also. When you use your pile it can take from 6 weeks to more than a year to compost. It depends on the humidity and temperatures your area sees. Humidity and warmth will speed up the process while lower temperatures and less humidity will slow it down.

Once a week you should check your pile or bin to see that it is getting warm inside. If it is, it’s working. You can turn or stir your pile to further quicken the process. Simply mix with a shovel, pitch fork or turn the bin to mix. This will ensure that all the material is exposed to the warmth inside the middle of the pile and that the decay is occurring evenly. You will notice over time that your pile is getting smaller, this is natural. The microbes and worms are eating and leaving behind only the stuff you want. One fourth to one third of your pile will disappear, okay not disappear but be eaten.

Your compost is done and ready for use when you can’t tell what was put into it and it is looks like dark rich soil. It will look just like expensive potting soil you buy and will crumble easily in your hand. Using a container such as a garbage can or barrel makes the process of composting easy for those who do not have large yards or suitable areas to compost. It does mean that it will be a smaller amount of compost though. Use a large garbage can and rest it at an angle on something like a frame made of two by two’s. You can make a simple frame with nails or screws and two by two’s from the home improvement store.

Make two triangular pieces with two legs at a 90 degree angle. Two legs should be about two to two and a half feet long. The third will be longer, attach that to make a triangle. Now take three pieces and attach the two A shaped pieces together less than the width of the garbage can you are going to use. When you tip the frame up so that one of the pieces of the frame that is 90 degrees to the other sits on the ground and the other sticks straight up the garbage can will lean on the longer third pieces. You can have the garbage can at an angle like this and fill it with garbage, composting type. Then every so often you will rotate the can to mix the compost. If you are going to use this can only for composting you can cut some small holes in it to help the composting. Cut them from the bottom up about every foot, making four or five around the bin. Just put a hole in it with a knife, carefully, about a half inch in diameter. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just enough to get air into the different layers. You don’t want to cut too many so that the can falls apart or is not sturdy. Just about twenty in a 30 to 35 gallon can. You can even have a few of these in various stages of composting in your yard. If you have the room, you can have some that you are starting, others that will be part way through and some that are ready to use.

You can use fence material such as chicken wire and snow fence to create an attractive pile without a bin, you can make a round one with some posts from the home improvement store. You can use a plastic or concrete fence to make a more permanent one. I have seen concrete blocks made into a corral on three sides and used for a large compost pile.

Composting is a growing trend in home improvement and gardening. There is even a Master Composter site on the web,
http://www.mastercomposter.com/ . You can check out some bins and containers they have and some more information about composting. Composting helps the environment, your community and your garden.

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