What is it? And, why should I do it?
Compost is one of nature's best mulches and soil amendments, and you can use it instead of commercial fertilizers. You can make it without spending a cent. Compost loosens clay soils, improves soil fertility, stimulates healthy root development in plants, improves soils capacity to hold water, and attracts earthworms and other beneficial microbes to your soil.
There are Two Typical Ways to Compost.
Traditional backyard composting, and
Worm bin composting indoors.
How Do I Compost in my Backyard?
Don’t worry, the hard work is done by bacteria and other decomposers. These decomposers can include sow bugs (roly-polies), worms, beetles and much more. The main thing you need to keep in mind are the basic needs of your little composting buddies: air, water, shelter, and a good balanced diet.
Food: Gather your materials which will be a combination of nitrogen rich and carbon rich materials. A mix of 3 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen is the perfect mix, but it doesn't have to be exact. (see brochure for details). Its a good idea to break the materials into small pieces. The smaller the pieces the quicker you will get finished compost.
Shelter - You can put the materials in a compost bin or just make a free standing pile. The pile should not be any smaller than 3 x 3 x 3 foot to allow temperatures to rise.
Water & Air: Make sure to keep the compost pile damp (not soaking wet), and occasionally mix the pile to add oxygen. If the pile becomes too wet or too compacted, it can become anaerobic which basically means that it will stink. As the decomposers get to work, the pile should start to heat up.
Common Problems and Possible Solutions
Not enough air.........turn it more often
Material too wet.........add dry materials
Raw material smells.........handle raw materials promptly
Pile isn't decomposing quickly enough or generating enough heat
Too small.........mix new ingrdients into the pile
Material is too dry.........moisten and turn pile
Lack of oxygen.........turn pile more often
Lack of nitrogen.........add a nitrogen source
aka Worm Bin Composting
If there is enough interest, Butler SWCD holds worm bin workshops for residents to build their own worms bins. Contact Lynn for more details about worm workshops and if you have any worm questions.
There is a wealth of information available on worm composting, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I will share a few of those resources that I have came across. This of course is not a comprehensive list of the best sites out there, just those that I have read recently.
Ever since I have had my first worm bin, I have used a book called Worms Eat My Garbage from Mary Appelhof. This book is available at Lane Libraries and Middletown Libraries and of course you can purchase your own. There are other great books on worm composting available, especially for children.
Red Worm Composting has a ton of info including quick facts, setup, use of compost, and fruit fly removal. Yo can even sign up for a worm newsletter.
City Farmer has a step by step photo guide, a comic and more.
Cornell Composting from Cornell University. Comprehensive how to setup and maintain a bin
Worm Composting from Clemson Cooperative Extension
Composting 101 all the basics. They also have info on traditional backyard composting.
Cheap and Easy Worm Bin Directions from Whatcom Co, WA. This system is a cheap way of getting the worms to separate from the finished compost.
The Adventures of Vermi the Worm a kids site from California with interactive games.
EEK: Composting with Worms from Environmental Education for Kids (EEK)