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Compost is a substance that has the magical ability to improve any soil. The rich black crumbly loam is chock-full of nutrients and good bacteria that has the ability to protect your crops from disease as well as pests.

Making your own compost is easy, great for the environment, and extremely gratifying. Compost is made when plant materials are broken down into dirt. Some people call the process “cooking”, because proper compost will generate some heat as the material ferments and rots.

It’s a myth that compost will attract unwanted animals such as rats or raccoons. Proper compost will only have an earthy smell and will not attract unwanted dinner guests.

A compost container can be constructed out of a variety of inexpensive materials. A quick compost container from an old plastic trash can with the bottom cut off is a great place to start. Another option is to construct a compost container out of five wooden pallets. Lay one pallet on the ground and four pallets for the walls. Use a power drill to screw it all together. Another simple compost bin can be made from chicken wire or any kind of wire fencing. A 10-foot piece can be made into a cylinder. Use wire to hold it together.

The best place to compost is in a sunny, out of the way location, preferably close to your garden.

Now comes the fun part! Fill your compost container with lots of good stuff. The key to successful composting is variety. Too much of one kind of material will take longer to break down. You will produce compost faster if you remember to layer the material. Sprinkle a shovel full of topsoil between each layer then spray with water before adding another layer.

Ingredients for wonderful rich compost:

Bark (shredded)
Blood meal
Bone meal
Coffee grounds
Corncobs
Egg shells (rinsed)
Fruit peelings
Grass clippings (dry or fresh)
Hay
Hedge trimmings
Leaves
Pine needles
Sawdust
Spoiled fruits and vegetables
Straw
Tealeaves
Vegetable peelings
Weeds from your garden

Only add plant products to your compost! NEVER add materials that come from animals such as bones, meat, pet manure, cheese, eggs and grease. These items will attract animals and will not make good compost.

Check your compost after a week. It should feel warm. If its not cooking yet, try mixing in some ‘browns and greens’. In the gardening world, ‘browns’ are considered dead material like dead dry leaves, shredded dead twigs. Anything that crackles is a ‘brown’. ‘Greens’ are anything that is fresh and green. Fresh grass clippings are great because they are extremely active.

Mixing the ‘browns’ with the ‘greens’ is an effective way to get that compost to cook. If after a week your compost still hasn’t generated any heat, then try adding nitrogen. This is incredibly easy, its simple household ammonia, one cup to a gallon of water. Pour the solution into the compost, and it WILL cook. Using a pitchfork or a shovel stir up the compost every couple of weeks or so.

Keep a coffee can with a lid under your sink in the kitchen. Whenever you have to peel a fruit or vegetable throw the waste into the coffee can. Put your coffee grounds in the can. Every night after dinner dump the day’s worth of kitchen waste into the bin.

If you begin a compost pile in early spring, by the time August rolls around you should have enough compost to start using in your garden.
Okay, so you have all this wonderful black gold, what do you do with it?
Try spreading around all of your crops a half inch thick. The bacteria in the material will combine with the dirt that’s there and actually grow and multiply. The compost will actually improve the soil. If your soil has too much clay, the compost will bring it into balance. Is your soil too acidic? The compost will bring it into balance. Any problem your soil has will eventually be ‘healed’ by the addition of compost.

Adding compost to a garden will produce stronger and more bountiful crops. The addition of compost will even help to protect your crops from unwanted pests and molds.

Spread the compost in your favorite flower gardens, berry patches and even in orchards. If spreading compost around trees, it’s important to spread it even with the tree’s branches. This will protect the tree's leaves from parasites. Compost can even be added to your lawn spreader. Sprinkling a lawn with compost will benefit your grass the same way that it would benefit your garden crops.

There have been extensive studies on the benefits of compost and it has been proven that the addition of compost on a regular basis will eliminate the need for pesticides or fertilizers.

The uses of compost are boundless, just try composting and see if it isn’t worth the effort!