Compost is easy to make, but there are a few key points to follow in order to get the best possible outcome for your garden.
Not all garden waste is equal. Some are high in carbon and are often referred to as brown materials, which are generally dry, brown and crispy. They contribute to the aeration of the compost pile which is important. Others are high in nitrogen and are called green materials. These are generally fresh, moist and green. The perfect balance of brown and green material is a ratio of 2:1. This provides the best conditions for the micro organisms to go about their business of breaking the material down into a rich soil conditioner. If there is too much brown it will take much longer to rot down and if it is too green it can become slimy and stinky. Even if the balance is not quite right though it will all break down eventually.
Carbon-rich brown materials include:
- Dry corn stalks
- Dry leaves
- Shredded paper
- Wood chips
It may be beneficial to chop these materials into small pieces to help speed up the process.
Nitrogen-rich green materials include:
- Coffee grounds
- General garden waste
- Grass clippings
- Pruning waste
- Vegetable scraps
- Well-rotted vegetarian and chicken manure
- Young weeds
It is important NOT to add the following to the compost pile:
- Brightly printed papers
- Cooked food
- Fats and oils
- Diseased plant materials
- Manure from meat eating creatures
- Meat and dairy products
- Plants covered in pests
- Weed seeds and weeds that don’t seem to want to die.
Industrial-sized compost operations can generally get hot enough to take care of these ingredients, however the average home compost system cannot generally get hot enough to destroy the pests, disease, seeds and stubborn weeds. These items should be put out with the rubbish or burnt.
They can add toxic ingredients, attract rats and other vermin. They can also introduce disease that is harmful to plants and humans. They can allow pests to overwinter in a warm place and can spread weeds across the entire garden making caring for the garden an arduous chore.