Organic Compost

Composting is by its very nature organic. The term "organic compost" is almost redundant in meaning, but it is used frequently online and offline so we include it here.

Organic material are changed into humus or compost through the work of microorganisms, soil fauna, fungi and enzymes. When making compost, you need to create the most harmonious environment for these organisms to perform. If properly done, the decomposition process works - often in as little as a few weeks! If the environment you provide is lacking on any of the four required ingredients (carbon, nitrogen, water and oxygen), decomposition still occurs, but takes from several months to several years.

All organic material eventually decomposes. By providing an ideal environment, composting speeds the process for microorganisms, bacteria and fungi. The result, humus or compost, is rich in nutrients, and appears as if it is soil that came directly from your garden. This dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling stuff works wonders on all kinds of soil.

Decomposing matter consist of bacteria, fungi, and larger organisms such as worms, sow bugs, nematodes, and numerous others. Decomposing organisms need four key elements to thrive: carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen. For best results, mix materials high in nitrogen (such as clover, fresh grass clippings, and livestock manure) and those high in carbon (such as dried leaves and twigs). Here are some effective recipes for the backyard composter:

A Compost Recipe

Decomposing occurs most efficiently when the ratio of carbon-rich to nitrogen-rich matter in your compost pile is approximately 25:1. In practical terms, if you want to have an active compost pile, you should include lots of high-carbon "brown" materials (such as straw, wood chips, or dry leaves) and a lesser amount of high-nitrogen "green" materials (such as grass clippings, freshly pulled weeds, or kitchen scraps).

If your pile has too much nitrogen and not enough carbon, your pile will also decompose very slowly and it will probably be soggy and smelly along the way.

But donít worry about determining the exact carbon content of a material or achieving a precise 25:1 ratio. Composting doesnít need to be an exact science. All organic matter breaks down eventually, no matter what you do. If you simply use about 3 times as much "brown" materials as "green" materials, youíll be off to a great start.

Brown Matter (high-carbon materials)

Green Matter (high-nitrogen materials)

Here are some simple compost recipes to help you along the way. You will need to experiment to find the best one for your area.

Sample Compost Recipes

* 1 part fresh grass clippings
* 1 part dry leaves
* 1 part good garden soil

Spread the ingredients in 3-inch-deep layers to a height of 3 to 4 feet.

* 2 parts fresh grass clippings
* 2 parts straw or spoiled hay
* 1 part good garden soil

Spread the ingredients in 4-inch layers, sprinkling about 1 inch of garden soil and adding water to the layers.

* 2 parts dry leaves
* 1 part fresh grass clippings
* 1 part food scraps

Spread ingredients in 4-inch layers, adding water if needed.


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