8 Do’s and Don’ts of Composting

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: May 7, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Do you want to set up a compost but don’t have the tips to get you started?

A compost pile should have a perfect balance of carbon-nitrogen materials. Another thing, don’t add things like cooking oil, bones, and leftover meat. 

Building and maintaining compost is not as easy as you think – there are many things you can and can’t do. 

Let’s go over composting do’s and don’ts. 

Composting Do’s

  • Build On Bare Earth – If you take care of your soil, it will reward you abundantly. Healthy soil will sustain healthy plant growth, which will give you healthy produce. When you compost, you want to generate organic manure that can boost the health of your plants. If you do it correctly, you will have a bumper harvest. 

It all starts with composting on the bare ground rather than on concrete or a plastic bin. Doing your compost this way is based on the fact that the ground is a habitat for worms and beneficial bacteria, both of which are needed to hasten decomposition and quickly avail food for plants. These organisms and microorganisms easily get into your pile when composting on bare ground.

  • Occasionally turn over the compost – Turning over the pile once in a while is very important because it allows aeration, which leads to rapid decomposition. Aerobic organisms handle the most important thing- converting the material into compost. When there’s adequate aeration, these organisms will last longer, resulting in high-quality moist compost.

Additionally, aeration helps to reduce initial moisture in your compost, so your material will rot healthily. The turning technique you use depends on the size of your garden or compost pile. Hand turning is the most common turning technique, given that most garden owners make small piles. Mechanical turning usually involves running air jets through huge compost piles. It is the most economical turning method, especially for commercial gardens.

Aeration aside, occasional turning also ensures that the material on the outside layer is subjected to high temperatures at the pile’s center. How frequently you should do it depends on the moisture content. 

Note: Piles with a high carbon-nitrogen ratio don’t need as much turning as those that rapidly decompose. 

  • Keep the compost damp – Composting needs a moist but not soggy environment. Active microorganisms work best when there’s some water, ideally 40-60%. If there’s too much wetness, it could cause anaerobic conditions because water is likely to block all the spaces needed for aeration. Most people let occasional turning fix this mess, but others control the conditions to the end. 

Squeeze a few leaves to ensure the materials are damp enough; do this when turning. You know a leaf is damp if it releases a drop of water when you tightly squeeze it in your palm. You may also need to add water if the leaves are extremely dry. The rule of thumb is that the material should not be too dry or too wet.

  • Shred large materials – By large materials, I’m referring to branches, newspapers, corn stalks, wood, twigs, etc. Shredding these materials is beneficial because it helps to expose a large surface area of each material for quick decomposition. When materials are small, they rot faster due to rapid bacterial invasion.
  • Maintain a good carbon-nitrogen ratio – If you treat your compost well, it will give you the best organic manure. Unfortunately, most people prepare and neglect the piles to decompose unaided. They don’t feed it a balanced carbon-nitrogen diet. 

A healthy compost pile has two organic materials – greens (nitrogen) and dry matter (carbon). Try to maintain a 50-50 weight balance of these two crucial materials. Due to the weight factor, you should have three buckets of dry matter for a bucket of greens.

  • What to compost – mix vegetables and food scraps with leaves. You may also add a few clippings. 

Composting Don’ts

  • Don’t forget to cover your pile – Regardless of the ambient weather, always leave your compost covered. If you have a container with a lid, please use it. Exposing the pile to weather extremes may cause it to lose nutrients as others leach into the surrounding environment. However, if you balance carbon-nitrogen, air, and water requirements, you may not lose a lot. 
  • Don’t use toxic plants – although composting degrades most harmful materials, it’s not safe to use the resultant manure on your plants. Toxic materials include deceased plants, weeds, and plants that are harmful to other plants. Think about what would happen if weeds in your pile didn’t break down fully. You’d probably have weeds in your entire garden. 

Some plants like Marigolds are poisonous to earthworms and other useful soil organisms, so avoid them as well.

  • Don’t have too big or too small composts – The best pile is at least 3x3x3 or 5x5x5 at most. A big pile means more odor, high initial costs, and a lot of work. Small piles are manageable but won’t give you the best results. That is why it’s advisable to have several manageable compost bins, so you may generate as much compost as possible. 
  • Items you shouldn’t compost – never compost oily foods, meat, fish, cat and dog droppings, dead plants, weed seeds, and eggs. Also, don’t add bones, synthetic fertilizers, sawdust, and materias treated with pesticides. 
  • Don’t substitute fertilizers with compost – Although compost is a rich source of organic fertilizer, it cannot produce a good supply of all essential nutrients to sustain your garden plants through many seasons. You should therefore treat it as a supplement for other fertilizers you use. 

Final Thoughts

The tips we have discussed above will go a long way to help you make the best compost piles. 

A properly prepared compost will boost the health of both your plants and soul, and that’s the reason you should be always available to treat it well.

You are good to go if you know what to add, and how to keep water and air under control. While at it, remember to be patient because it will take you up to four months to see any results. 

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