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There are many reasons to compost. Of course, the rich compost is wonderful for plants. Composting is also a way to recycle organic waste.

A compost pile can be elaborate or it can be inexpensive and simple. The time devoted to making compost is directly related to how fast compost is made. The more time spent, the faster the results.

When the compost pile has the proper balance and is turned every three days, rich compost can be made in as little as two weeks!

Composting can be done with or without a bin. If a bin is used, it should be at least three feet square and three feet high. At that size, it can retain adequate heat and moisture, but not allow the material to be so heavy as to crush out the air that is necessary to composting.

A compost pile is not made up of just anything. To create compost, a group of microorganisms must be allowed to flourish. They will interact with each other to make the compost, so their proper balance is crucial.

Some things decay faster than others. For example, kitchen waste, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, break down quickly. Cardboard pieces and tree branches rot very slowly.

The microorganisms that will break down the materials in the compost pile require a certain balance of nitrogen (or protein) and carbon (or carbohydrates).

Waste products that are high-nitrogen include, fruit and vegetable peelings, seeds and grass clippings. Nitrogen-rich materials are usually green vegetation. Animal waste is also high in nitrogen.

High-carbon materials are usually dry and tough plant parts, such as leaves, paper, tree branches and straw.

The ideal balance for composting is 20 parts carbon to one part nitrogen.

The two other necessary elements of composting are moisture and oxygen.

The pile should be kept damp, but not wet. If the compost pile smells bad, it is probably too wet and it may not be getting enough oxygen.

The pile must be turned at least every three days to keep it oxygenated.

An ammonia-type smell indicates too much nitrogen.

Never add meat, animal fats, bones nor anything synthetic to the compost pile.

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1. Layer your materials, either in a bin or just on the ground. Keep the carbon/nitrogen ratio as close to 20:1 as possible. Once the pile is “working,” do not add more material unless you need to remedy an imbalance.

2. Turn the pile every third day. Bring the material from the inside to the outside and from the bottom to the top.

3. If the material is not damp, sprinkle it lightly with water.

4. After a couple turnings, the pile should steam when you turn it. This tells you the microorganisms are at work.

5. If you notice any “off” smell, determine the problem: too much nitrogen, too much moisture, etc., and correct the situation.

6. The interior pile temperature should reach 150 degrees F after about a week to 10 days. A lower reading means the pile needs more nitrogen.

7. At the end of about two weeks, the temperature of the pile will drop. This indicates the compost is done.

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Now, the above method takes two weeks. What if you don’t want to put so much effort into making compost? Easy!

1. Layer the materials in a bin or on the ground. Try to get the carbon/nitrogen ratio close to 20:1.

2. Sprinkle the pile with water.

3. Don’t do anything else!

In about a year or so, check the pile by turning it. You will find rich compost!

Without any help at all, the microorganisms will make rich and wonderful compost! So, you can make compost in two weeks, or allow nature to do it for you! Either way, composting is a great way to recycle waste into a good garden supplement!

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Happy Composting!