Thursday, June 3, 2010

Composting: Stirring Your Way To Soil

Now that you have a beautiful compost bin working, its time to fill it and actually make some compost. Composting requires two ingredients, better known as greens and browns. Greens are high in nitrogen, and include things like kitchen scraps, green grass clippings, weeds, and green leaves. Browns are high in carbon and include dried brown leaves, dried grass, and straw. Both are necessary to feed the microorganisms that convert the pile of trash into soil. The ideal composting mixture is 4 parts browns to 1 parts greens. Ratios outside of 4:1 take longer to compost, and do not give the microorganisms the nutrition they need. The microorganisms also need water and air, which come easily in the form of rain and wind when you are using an open bin composter. So once you collect 4 parts dead leaves and 1 part banana peels and rotten romaine lettuce from your kitchen, put them in the same chamber of your compost bin. Every day, until soil forms, your job is to go out to the compost pile and stir it around. Most of the microorganisms will be inside the pile, cooking the trash at 160’. You want to make sure all of the leaf and lettuce scraps make it to the inside of the pile so they too can be cooked. The compost usually takes 2-3 weeks to fully cook into soil, so you best be out there stirring it often until a soil like consistency is achieved, that means no pieces of lettuce or tomatoes are visible in the compost. Many composting enthusiasts’ websites recommend using tillers or large forks or other fancy tools to stir their compost. I decided, as usual, to recycle again, and went in the backyard to procure a large stick which I have dubbed my stirring stick. So if you need me during the next 3 weeks, I will be out stirring my pile. Soil, here I come!

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