Compost is a dark, easily crumbled substance that develops from the partial decay of organic material. Making compost greatly reduces the volume of garden refuse, provides mulching materials for garden plants and contributes organic material to garden soils.

Most gardeners who compost produce compost in a "compost pile." Begin with almost any plant material. Examples include grassclippings, garden prunings, spent plants, leaves, hay, straw, manure and immature weeds. Do not compost meat scraps, diseased vegetables or plants or weeds with mature seed.

Start the pile directly on the ground. Sides of wire, wood or concrete block may be used to keep the pile in place. Begin the pile with a 6- to 8-inch layer of chopped organic material, since chopped materials have greater surface area and will decay more quickly. Moisten the layer and add 1 to 2 inches of manure or one cup of commercial fertilizer to supply nitrogen. Lastly, add a small amount of soil or finished compost to supply composting organisms. Repeat these layers to the height desired. The compost pile will require six to 12 months before it is dark, crumbly and ready to use. Turning the pile so the inside is moved to the outside and vice versa four to 10 weeks after it is begun will speed up the composting process somewhat. Keeping it moist but not soggy will also speed up the process.

You can also make compost by working organic material directly into the soil. Simply spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of a material such as leaves over the soil and work it in. Do this in the fall or several weeks before planting so the material will decay before planting.

More information on composting may be obtained from Extension PB 1479, "Composting Yard, Garden and Food Wastes at Home."

Organic materials-grass, leaves, weeds, etc.

Organic materials-grass, leaves, weeds, etc.

Figure 18. Cross section of proper layering in a compost bin.

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Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

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