May 11, 2010

You can hardly pick up a magazine today without finding an article on composting. Usually it includes a formula for brown material, green material and special additives such as bone and/or blood meal, wood ash, and others. Unfortunately, recipes and rules can be counterproductive if they prevent you from trying.

What if you don’t have the right mix of materials? Will the compost police knock on your door? Of course not, which is why I suggest, “don’t sweat the rules” when making compost.

Think of the rules as guidelines. Compost is very forgiving, at least if you err on the brown side. I like to start with a pile of shredded leaves or straw; then I mix the green in as I get them. Over time as I mix and add, the entire mass breaks down into a sweet supplement of organic materials for plants in our garden.

Now if you can layer this and that as instructed, that’s great. Your compost will be ready faster, probably be more nutrient rich and you’ll more likely reach temperatures high enough to kill off weed seeds.

Those are admirable goals, but what if you don’t reach them? Compost use knows no time limits, and any compost is better than none. What seeds sprout can easily be pulled and returned to a new compost pile.

Making compost is too good a thing to sweat the rules. So start a pile with what you have at hand. Shoot for a good mixture of mostly brown, dry ingredients to mix with your green materials. If it mixes easily and biological life is active with earthworms and other bugs at work, you’re on the right track. 

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