What Is Compost?

Compost is a type of organic material that decomposes into smaller pieces over time. It is composed mainly of dead organisms such as bacteria, fungi, molds and other microorganisms. These living organisms break down organic matter (such as leaves or grass clippings) into smaller particles called “compost” which are then used to make mulch or soil amendments.

The term “compost” is often confused with “garbage.” Garbage includes food waste, yard trimmings, animal manure and household cleaning products. Compost does not contain any nutrients; it’s only purpose is to provide a place for these organisms to live while they decompose. Composting helps reduce the amount of land needed for gardening since there isn’t as much need to till the ground and add fertilizer.

How Do You Compost?

There are two main types of composting: aeration and aeration/aerobic digestion. Aeration involves adding air into the mix to encourage decomposition. Air is allowed to enter the mixture through holes or openings in containers like plastic bags or buckets. The goal is for all the air to be able to move around freely within the container so that all parts of the organism will eventually break down into smaller pieces. The reason for this is so that the nutrients in the food waste or animal manure can be used to help grow plants.

What Are The Different Types Of Compost Mixtures?

There are two types of mixtures: dark and green. The ingredients in each mixture are the same, but are combined in different ways. The two different mixtures use larger pieces or smaller pieces of each material.

Dark Composts:

This type of mixture uses larger pieces of ingredients and is made mostly of “brown” ingredients such as leaves, wood chips, hay or shredded paper. It requires more time to break down, but is great for moisture retention and can be used to condition clay soil so that it is loose and able to be worked with your hands.

Green Composts:

This mixture uses smaller pieces of ingredients and is made of “green” ingredients such as grass clippings, food waste, fresh manure or shredded green leaves. The mixture needs to be added more often than the dark mixture since it has a higher water content, but it also requires less time to break down.

What Are Some Common Ingredients For Compost?

There are hundreds of common ingredients that can be used to make compost. Many of these items can also be “gathered” from your own yard and used as a form of free fertilizer.

Grasses:

Grasses, such as crabgrass, are often a component in many compost mixtures since they can be broken down fairly easily. They also help to provide air into the mixture.

Leaves:

Leaves, especially deciduous tree leaves, are one of the most commonly used ingredients in making compost. They can be shredded or chopped up so that they decompose very quickly. Be sure not to use any leaves that have been treated with chemicals.

Eggshells:

Eggshells are another easily decomposed ingredient that most people would have in their yard already. The only drawback is that they are fairly small so it’s best to grind them up before adding them to the compost.

Manure:

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Animal manure can often be found at local stables or farms and is a very common compost ingredient. It is usually fairly “hot” or high in nutrients so it’s best to not add too much at one time. Adding manure that has been run through a rototiller to aid in decomposition is a good way to slowly add this ingredient.

Fruits And Vegetables:

Citrus peels, coffee grounds and spoiled vegetables can all be thrown in the compost bin. These ingredients break down fairly quickly and gain a very good odor.

Asphalt:

Asphalt shingles that are crushed can be used in making the compost mixture. They often add a lot of nutrients and are fairly easy to break down.

Newspaper:

Adding shredded newspaper to the mixture helps keep the mixture “fluffy” so that air can circulate throughout it. It also helps to prevent some of the ingredients from sinking to the bottom of the pile.

What Do I Need To Consider When Making A Compost Mixture?

The main thing you want to consider before making your mixture is how much room you have in your compost bin. You should have at least a 3:1 ratio of “browns” material to “greens” material. “Browns” are the larger, heavier materials that are higher in carbon and take longer to break down. “Greens” are the smaller, lighter materials that are higher in nitrogen and break down fairly quickly.

Your mixture should also have a 1:1 ratio of “carried” material to “waste” material. “Carrying” ingredients are items that hold large amounts of water such as melon rinds or torn up newspaper. “Wastes” are items that have little to no moisture such as dried leaves or grass clippings.

The mixture should also have a minimum of 5% Oyster Shell or land-based animal bone. Oyster Shell helps to neutralize the pH levels in the mixture and animal bones add necessary nitrogen to the mixture.

A good way to measure the ratios of your mixture and ensure that it contains enough oxygen is to take a handful of it and squeeze it. If it forms a ball and doesn’t fall apart, you’ve got the right mix of ingredients.

What Are The Different Types Of Bins?

There are four different types of bins that can be used to create the perfect compost environment. Each type comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Open- TOP LID:

These bins have a solid bottom with no holes and a hinged lid. They can be used to make a single large pile that is turned weekly or smaller piles that are turned more frequently. The main disadvantage of this type of bin is the lid cannot be left open since it could attract animals and pests.

Corner-Quad:

These bins are made up of 4 separate boxes and come with or without tops. They can be stacked on top of one another or with screening between them to allow for air flow and turning. The advantages of this type are that it allows the user to turn each compartment individually and use all four at once.

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Continuous-Tube:

These bins are made up of a long, sealed tube with rows of holes along the bottom. They can be placed directly on the ground or on a platform (if the bin needs to be higher off the ground). The contents of this type of bin are not turned at all, just mixed as the “wind” pushes the material on the bottom up through the tube and back down again. This form also allows for the materials to break down faster without turning them because there is a constant flow of air through it.

Bagged:

These bins consist of high density, heavy duty garbage bags that are placed inside one another and sewn together with an opening at the bottom for drainage. They can be placed on a platform or directly on the ground. They allow for easy turning of the materials inside and are advantageous because they can be placed anywhere, even in an apartment!

How Do I Know When It’s Done?

There is no exact amount of time that it will take for your mixture to turn into dark, crumbly, soil-like compost.

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