Monday, May 28, 2012

How To Make A Compost Heap

Illus. by Marc Brown
Super Soil, from Marc Brown's Your First Garden Book (ISBN 9780316112178) (the author of Arthur series which is also PBS kids' show), is how I plan to do my compost heap from now on:
"Compost is rich organic matter.  When you add it to the soil it helps plants grow.  Use it for your gardens indoors and out as an extra boost.
1. To recycle waste and make compost, or super soil.
2. Dig a hole about 3 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep.
3. In the hole make layers of plant matter (vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and leaves) and soil.  It will become rich compost as the plant matter decays.
4. Check the hole now and then.  When the leaves and grass clippings have completely disappeared, dig in with your shovel and mix up the layers.  Your compost is now ready to use!

photo from Southern Living
You can get fancy with compost heaps, but it shouldn't keep you from composting.  I've had no problems just heaping my compost in a pile out of the way but not too far from the kitchen.  Living in the country, I take advantage of being able to burn trash such as boxes food comes in, I take plastics and metals to a recycling center, and I compost all my kitchen scraps.  This leaves very little for the trash man to carry away.  My daughter recently informed me that her carbon imprint at home was practically nothing, but is pretty bad at the dorms.  I'm not into "carbon footprints" but I like the way they recycled everything during World War II, had victory gardens and composted to enrich their gardens.  In fact, you can actually just place your scraps in empty garden beds over the winter and till over with a hoe.  It's pretty well decomposed by spring.

from Southern Living
Compost heaps should be placed somewhere out of the way and shady.  Mark a 6 x6 foot area.  I pile kitchen scraps, especially egg shells (not meat or grease), raked-up leaves (even better if you chomp them up first with a mower), grass clippings, wood ashes from the fireplace, and garden refuge.  Cover with an inch of soil and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of lime to keep odors down if necessary, but I don't have a problem with odors.  Add 2 cups of garden fertilizer and keep layering up to several feet.  Water often in dry weather conditions.  It helps to leave an impression on top to catch rain water or snow.  Turn pile with a pitch fork occasionally.  Add more soil to keep the heap from looking unsightly.  I read in article in Southern Living magazine where a man grew cucumbers in his compost heap, (it was surrounded by a circle of chicken wire that the cumbers trellised up).  Now that's something I've got to try!

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