If we just pile up organic material,
we’ll eventually achieve that gardener’s goal known as compost. There are a few
things that can make composting take longer or lead to problems with your
pile. Now, a pile that is too dry will simply not have enough microbial action
to break down materials quickly. Add more kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, or manure
to get things warmed up. Wet the pile thoroughly so that it is not dripping
wet but has the consistency of a wrung- out sponge: evenly damp. And you’ll want
to keep the top of the compost pile concave or scooped out so that rainfall
or water that you apply soaks into the pile rather than being shed off of it. If
you’re seeing a lot of pillbugs, sowbugs, and millipedes, these creatures do
help break down organic materials, but they’re an indicator that your pile is
actually too dry. These ants, pill bugs, earwigs, and sowbugs can be a problem if
you add them to your garden from your compost pile. They can attack tender
seedlings and transplants in your garden. So spread your compost in a thin layer
on a tarp or a piece of cardboard in a sunny spot for a day or two before
adding that compost to their garden, so they have a chance to scurry away. Now is
your compost slimy or smelly? Perhaps you’ve added too many kitchen scraps or
fresh grass clippings at one time. Add carbon materials in the form of dry
leaves, shredded newspaper, or torn up cardboard or egg cartons, and turn the
pile to add oxygen and distribute the moisture. You want to strive for a three-
parts brown carbon materials to one-part green nitrogen ratio for your compost.
Heavy, wet, or smelly compost piles are full of anaerobic bacteria, which don’t
require oxygen to thrive. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen, and they’re the
ones that break down organic materials most efficiently. So turning your
compost or stirring it to add oxygen can lead to faster composting. If we’re
having a lot of rain, consider keeping your compost pile convex or pointed to
shed rain, and use a tarp to cover the pile.
Rats, raccoons, skunks, and other rodents can be attracted to your kitchen scraps
within the compost pile. An enclosed compost tumbler may be your best option
to avoid unwanted wildlife in the compost pile. A wire cage around the
compost bin can deter pests, too. Another option is to use a blender to
grind up food scraps and water saved from cooking or washing vegetables and putting
that ground-up liquid in the pile. It keeps the pile moist, also, and deters
rodents. A compost pile that’s at least 1 cubic yard in size will be able to heat
up and cook more efficiently. Smaller compost tumblers maintain heat better
because of their dark plastic materials, so they can work well despite their
smaller size. Shred your leaves with a mower, or chop garden materials like your
tomato and pepper plants while they’re still tender and green to make the chore
easier. The smaller the materials, the faster you
will have finished compost. Stockpile leaves in the winter so you always have
a ready supply. I like to grow Elbon rye or annual rye as a cover crop in the
garden or over lawn areas in the winter and then cut that to have a nitrogen
source when I have plenty of leaves available. A little coffee grounds and
kitchen scraps added to those will make fabulous compost in no time. For backyard
basics, I’m Trisha Shirey. Thanks for watching.