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How to Create a Healthy Compost Pile

by Steve Gott on Mar 5, 2013

Approximately 40 percent of the things we dispose of in our trash can be used to make fertilizer for our lawns and home gardening. These organic materials include our lawn and garden waste as well as household food scraps. Composting is a great way to decrease the amount of organic waste that is sent to the landfill. It is used instead to create mulch that will improve the health of your yard soil so that it will support beautiful, healthy plants. This will also save you some money as there will be no need to purchase fertilizer for your plants. We will use this article will focus on the common methods of composting.


Selecting the Right Compostable Materials

Most of the waste materials found around the yard are suitable for composting. These include leaves, cut grass, weeds, twigs, branches and vines. Waste foods from your kitchen that are suitable for composting include scraps from fruits and vegetables, egg shells, nut shells and coffee grounds. Other materials you can gather from around your home include shed/clipped hair, straw, waste from livestock (manure) and feathers.

Materials That Should Not Be Composted

Your compost pile should not include materials that may promote diseases, cause odors and attract pests. We are talking about waste materials such as poultry, dairy products, meat, fish, foods containing animal fats and feces from humans or pets. Even some plant materials make this list. Avoid weeds with developed seed heads, disease infected plants and others such as roses and peonies that are highly susceptible to disease.

Materials to Be Added in Limited Amounts

Wood ash is a source of lime and should be composted in limited amounts. Sawdust should also be limited in a compost pile as it requires extra nitrogen to facilitate the process of decay. Other materials that make this list include:

  • Plants that have been treated with herbicides or pesticides as these chemicals require added time to be thoroughly decomposed.
  • Black and white newsprint as they break down slowly. This material should make up no more than 10 percent of the total weight of your compost pile.

Location of Your Compost Pile

A compost pile should be located in an area where it is sunny or where there is semi-shade. The heap should be in direct contact with the soil or turf it is compiled upon, and it should be kept clear of waterways. A pile that is built on bare earth will benefit from the aeration process by worms and other organisms.

Building the Pile

Start your pile by laying a few inches of twigs and straws to facilitate drainage and aeration. Add the other materials in layers by alternating dry and moist. Tea bags, food scraps and seaweed can be used for moist materials. If wood ash is used as a dry material it should be sprinkled in thin layers, otherwise it will clump together and slow its decomposition. Add manure or any other source of nitrogen to your pile to activate the pile and speed up the composting process. You can use green manure such as clover, buckwheat and wheat grass. Shredding, chopping or bruising the materials will also hasten the process.

You can further tend to your compost pile by wetting it occasionally, no need if it rains, and covering it to help retain the moisture and heat. Moisture, oxygen and heat are essential to the process. You can use items such as wood, plastic sheeting or scraps of carpet for cover. Use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the pile every few weeks to aerate and introduce oxygen. Composting can also be done in bins which are available on the market.

James Fogle is a lawn care expert with many years of professional experience. He enjoys sharing his insights and  helping others achieve the lawn of their dreams through blogging. For more garden and lawn care advice, visit www.lawnservice.net.



Steve Gott

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