Home Composting, the Good the Bad and the Ugly
I hope you found my last article on composting informative but there were a few things I didnt go through last time that I would like to touch base on now. You found out last time that there are basic needs that you need to give for a compost to be productive. Those basic needs are air, food, and water. Now that we have the basics down, and we know how to properly deliver these basics I will now get a little more in depth into what you should and shouldnt put into your compost.
Lets start off with what you shouldnt put in your compost bin. This is an area I really could have used some more knowledge in my first time using a fresh batch of compost in my garden.
1) Any wood product that has been chemically treated (pressure treated lumber) should be left out of your compost. When the wood or sawdust from these types of wood get broken down the chemicals that were used to treat the wood leach into the compost and will ruin the garden or plants that you use the compost in.
2) Diseased plants may infect your garden if the compost was not hot enough to kill off all of the disease. So unless you want to play Russian roulette with next years garden I would stay away from composting diseased plants.
3) Human and pet waste should never be used in a compost by a back yard gardener. Although possible to effectively compost these materials you take the risk of your pile not being hot enough to kill off all of the diseases that are carried in the waste. There are people who do this type of composting but they are well trained in hot composts and know the temperature and time it takes to safely decompose this type of matter. For the back yard enthusiast I would recommend staying away.
4) Fatty foods and meat waste (including bones) should be left out as well. They will take forever to break down and the local rats and mice may make your compost their new watering hole. If you want to still use these materials you can bury them in your 8" deep in your garden. This will make sure the little vermin cant smell and then get at your leftovers.
5) Pernicious weeds can be a particular pest to compost because even if you chop them up really well these types of weeds will still be able to sprout new roots while in the compost. But there is a way. After weeding leave the uprooted weeds in a pile in the direct sunlight for a couple weeks until they are nice and brown. Then they are safe.
Remember How I said I could have used some of this info in my first compost bin. I found out #5 the hard way. I chopped up a few morning glories into my first compost and the next season I was pulling dozens of them out of my garden where there was none before.
The next thing to learn is what you should put in your compost.
1) Grass is a good material to put in your compost but I have always found it easier to leave it on the ground to help the lawn. But if you decide to use them in your compost make sure to add your grass in thin layers, and mix thoroughly to avoid a slimy layer that will not want to break down.
2) If you want a great material to put in your compost bin, kitchen waste is the way to go. Form fruits and vegetable leftovers, to tea and coffee grounds, this stuff is great to compost. One thing to consider is to make sure your compost bin is secure so this type of waste does not attract the local vermin population like meat products would. Although this type of kitchen waste will break down a lot faster than the meat products will it may still be tempting for a mouse or rat so you may want to think about a bin with a secure top. Avoid milk products as well since this also is a big lure for rats and mice.
3) Leaves can be a great source of material for your compost. Just to think people just rake up and throw away this stuff. If you are feeling energetic why not rake up the neighbours lawn too. Think of all the point around the block you could earn with your neighbours. Like grass leaves should be mixed in well to avoid clumping up and turning into a big mat in the middle of your bin.
4) Hay and Straw will make an ideal "Brown" ingredient to your mix. Not only will they supply a good nitrogen source for all the little microbes to feast on but they also help your pile from packing down and not allowing enough air to the center of the pile. Remember when you have a "Brown" ingredient in your pile you will also need "green" ingredients (grass, fruits and vegetables) to make the decomposition go quickly.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article on the materials best suited for your compost bin. I will be writing one more article on composting to go along with this and my last one so I hope you will come back soon to check it out.Hi my name is Doug and I live in the Okanagan Valley in British Colombia BC. I have spent most of my life working my way through various different career paths that has helped me develop a diverse knowledge base to which I write on. For more on gardening and more for your home and health needs go to Home and Health MishMash. Visit http://homeandhealthmishmash.blogspot.com Visit Home Composting, the Good the Bad and the Ugly.