Compost by Thomas Clark.
If you take a moment to look up the term compost in a dictionary, you will likely find reference to a mixture of decaying organic matter, such as leaves
and manure. At least that is what I read when I examined the American Heritage Dictionary.
If you have a yard with a vegetable garden or flower beds of any size then learning to compost effectively is a worthwhile activity. I say
effectively because we are not talking about rocket science here. This is basically a process of decay that is going on all the time with or without us
Only when we speak of a compost pile, we are striving to have efficient decay that does not smell offensive, look unsightly, or pose any
health hazards. It is a win – win situation. We can dispose of waste that is often sent to the landfill and reuse it as high quality amendment material for
our flower beds, garden, or even yard. For example, a person can pile lawn clippings, leaves, and kitchen scraps in a pile and let it rot down. The final composted product, called humus will be about 20 percent in size of the original pile and when used in planting bed will help retain moisture and contribute nutrients and microbial activity. This will improve productivity.
There are some basic considerations to know. It is all about ingredients and construction. Brown stuff and green stuff and water and air make compost.
Brown stuff is generally high carbon content: things like straw, fine wood chips, dry leaves, and dry brown grass. Green stuff is nitrogen rich material:
mostly fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps and fresh cut grass. Air is important to support aerobic microbial activity in the compost pile. Microbes are your little
workers that will process and rot the pile, similar to what occurs in the forest to leaves and fallen limbs.
While livestock manure is a desirable source of nitrogen, to reduce possible health hazards, you should not compost dog and cat
feces or meat products. Egg shells are ok if you are not having problems attracting animals. Some moisture is important, but too much will reduce the
amount of air in the pile and it may become anaerobic, lacking sufficient oxygen. This may result in unfavorable odors.
If the pile shape does not shed enough water a tarp or bin may be used. If it gets too dry and rotting slows down, a garden hose can fix that. The different materials will rot faster if
mixed somewhat, so some folks will turn the pile periodically. A pile on the ground is fine, or you can construct a bin or purchase a commercial bin.
If you have never composted and this all seems mysterious and confusing, do not worry. The intent of this article is to drive home the concept that composting is easy. Anyone can do it. It is just a balancing act of adjusting the mixture of materials with air and moisture. An excellent source for learning a great deal more about this is the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension website.