Making compost presents the gardener with an economic and easy way to recycle disease-free garden, kitchen and general waste. Nowadays there are many ways in which organic compost can be made. Commercially available you get compost equipment like compost drums, compost turners, compost aerators, compost makers, compost containers, compost barrels, and compost tumblers. However, since we are making the assumption that we are gardening on a shoestring budget our compost recipe for making compost will not require these, sometimes expensive, compost equipment. Instead our organic compost recipe willshow you how to make compost using a compost heap. Organic compost can be made in many ways and this compost recipe will be a guideline only.
The most suitable materials for composting are all organic materials that will rot or decay easily. These materials will include:
Unsuitable materials, albeit organic, for the compost heap will be materials such as garden waste that has been treated with pesticides, kikuyu grass, woody garden clippings, pine needles, rose cuttings and other cuttings with thorns, bulbs, seeds, runners, toilet waste or septic tank sludge, diseased animal carcasses and diseased plants, as well as materials such as metals, glass and plastic as they do not decompose easily. (Tip: Avoid using the same type of organic matter, for example just grass clippings from the lawn or leaves alone because it has a tendency to form a mat with poor aeration.)
When approximately one week has passed, push your hand into the compost heap and you will feel the heat generated by the decomposition process. After a few weeks the compost heap will have cooled down. This cooled down compost heap means that you need to turn the compost heap so as to allow it to heat up again. The heat will kill weed seeds and fly larvae. (Tip: Make use of a compost thermometer. These are available from garden centers and nurseries.)
To speed up the compost formation in the compost heap it should be turned. Turning encourages decomposition. The time between 'turnings' of the heap depends on the speed at which decomposition takes place, and this in turn depends on the ingredients in the heap, and the weather. The correct temperature range is necessary for composting. The rate of decomposition is much faster during the hot and humid summer months.
Organisms require oxygen and moisture to decompose organic matter. So keep the heap moist, but not water-logged as this inhibits decomposition and will make the compost smell. If it does get too wet, add absorbent material such as sawdust, straw, or manure, and turn the heap. A badly aerated compost heap has an unpleasant smell and it is thus necessary to turn the heap over every two to three weeks to help with aeration. (Tip: The compost heap should be damp, not soggy.)
A correctly cared for compost heap should not create fly, rat or mouse problems in the garden. Flies can be controlled in a compost heap by immediately covering new material with dry soil, sawdust, grass or leaves. Since flies breed in compost, it is necessary to turn the compost heap frequently so that enough heat is generated to destroy fly eggs and pupae. If you do find large white worms in the compost, destroy them. They are the larvae of the large black and yellow fruit beetle which does much damage in the garden.
Do not add meat scraps to the compost as this will attract rats and mice.
Do not use any poisons such as insecticides to control pests as these will stop the decomposition process by killing the organisms responsible for decomposition, e.g. fungi, earthworms, bacteria.
Making compost is really quite easy, but having too much of a certain material or letting the compost get too wet or too dry can cause problems.
This could be the case if the compost heap is too small, or the weather might be too cold and composting is this slowed down. Ensure that your compost heap is at least 1 meter high and 1 meter wide (1 meter equals approximately 3 feet.) The compost heap may be smaller if you make use of a compost bin.
There are several reasons why the compost heap can appear stagnant. Insufficient nitrogen, insufficient oxygen, insufficient moisture, cold weather, or simply the compost is finished. In the case of insufficient nitrogen you should make sure that you have enough nitrogen rich sources like manure, grass clippings or food scraps. In case of insufficient oxygen you should mix up the compost heap so as to allow it to breathe. In the case of insufficient moisture you should mix up the compost heap and water it to introduce some moisture into the compost heap as a dry heap will not compost. In the case of cold weather it is advisable to wait for spring, cover the heap or make use of a compost bin.
The main reason would be that there is poor aeration of lack of moisture in the compost heap. Address the situation by avoiding thick layers of just one type of material. Break up the layers and mix up the compost heap so that the materials mix. Do shred the big materials that are not breaking down well.
The main reason for a stinking compost heap could be that there is insufficient oxygen or the compost heap is too wet or compacted. Aerate the compost heap by mixing it up to enable the compost heap to breathe. If the problem is caused by too much moisture then add dry materials such as straw, hay or leaves to soak up all the excess moisture. If the smell is too bad then add dry materials on top of the compost heap and wait till it dries out before attempting to mix up the compost heap.
The ammonia smell is caused by insufficient carbon. Remedy the situation by adding brown materials such as leaves, straw, hay, shredded or torn-up newspaper, etc.
These animals can be attracted by the addition of inappropriate materials to the compost heap. These materials include items like meat, oil, and bones. Else it can be a situation where the food-like materials are too close to the surface of the compost heap. You should bury kitchen scraps near the center of the compost heap. You also should not add inappropriate materials to the compost heap. Alternatively you can make use of a rodent-proof closed compost bin.
Fire ants can make their appearance if the compost heap is too dry, or not hot enough, or the kitchen scraps are too close to the surface of the compost heap. You should make sure that the compost heap has a good mixture that will heat up and you should keep the compost heap moist.
This is a normal situation and part of the natural process of composting. This is not problematic.
Compost is mature and ready to use when it looks crumbly and has an earthy smell. It can then be dug into the top-soil of garden beds or spread as a mulch under trees and bushes. Compost also makes a very good potting soil mixture for houseplants or seedling trays. (Tip: Under ideal conditions your compost should be ready after six weeks.) The following are the recommended ways in which to use organic compost.