From: Lee Reich, Associated Press
Published September 15, 2004 12:00 AM

If There Ever Was a Time for Composting, It Is Now

If there ever was a time for composting, it is now. Backyards are overflowing with old plant material, stuff once foolishly called "garbage:" old stems, leaves, and flowers from the garden; kitchen trimmings; leaves from trees.

A bit of modern-day alchemy transforms all this material into rich, dark humus, which really is like gold for the garden. With all this material available at once, the compost pile grows rapidly, becoming like an amorphous animal with its innards generating warmth. The heat can be sufficient to kill insects or diseases fed to the pile along with the plant material.

Rip out weeds and add them to this melting pot of vegetation; the heat will snuff life from them also.

If you were to do just one thing to make a good compost pile, it would be this: Have some sort of bin to enclose it. A bin keeps everything looking tidy, retains heat and moisture, and makes the material less accessible to animals. The minimum size for a compost bin, sufficient to generate heat, is one cubic yard, or 3-by-3-by-3 feet.

You need access to the bin, both to add materials initially and, later, to remove the finished compost, so make it three-sided. Better still, make it four-sided, with one side removable; or make it so that the sides get built up or down as you add or take away material.


Construct more than one bin, and you can be feeding one while the innards of one or more others are cooking.

All sorts of materials have been used in the construction of compost bins. Fencing is cheap and easy to use, but the material within usually dries out too quickly. Cinder blocks are another possibility, as are straw bales which, as they rot, can be added to new piles. Wood makes a nice enclosure, either permanently joined or else notched Lincoln-log style to grow and shrink with the growing and shrinking compost pile.

Pay some attention to how you feed your compost, imagining that it really is an animal, which like other animals, needs air, water, and food. Provide air by making sure the pile is fluffy. Balance out dense materials with fluffier ones and don't pile materials too high.

Water, if necessary, and feed your compost anything that was once or is living, except for fatty materials and kitty litter.

Dont fret over providing exactly ideal conditions for your composting animal. No matter what you do, you'll eventually end up with compost.

Source: Associated Press

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