By Christine Wied
Composting is nature’s own recycling by taking organic discards and converting them back into valuable nutrients for the soil. With summer in full swing, for those who have a compost pile or bin, here are a few tips to keep it working at peak efficiency in the warmer months.
In order for the composting process to work, there needs to be a balance of carbon-rich materials known as “browns” and nitrogen-rich materials called “greens.” Browns are dry, woody materials such as dry leaves, pruned bushes and newspaper. Greens include grass clippings, freshly cut weeds, flowers, food scraps, vegetable and fruit peels. The greens tend to be more prevalent in the summer months and can throw off the balance in the bin. Fallen leaves that provide needed carbon are easier to find in the fall and winter. Newspaper can work as a brown or carbon source but make sure it is not more than 10% of your compost pile by volume. A better option is corrugated cardboard torn into small pieces. This may be a good use of a pizza box or other stained or wet box that can’t be recycled. The corrugated texture traps air and aids in the composting process. Wood chips and straw are other good options.
Check the moisture levels of your compost pile. It should be as wet as a wrung out sponge. Add water as needed. Although heat is necessary for the composting process to work, excessive heat can kill the microbes and worms. If you are using a black plastic bin in direct sunlight, check a little more frequently in the hot weather. If necessary, cover it with cardboard or other light material to keep it from getting too hot and dried out.
This is a good time to use that compost to enrich your plants during the growing season. Use a screen to filter out large chunks of unprocessed pieces but it is okay if not every bit is totally finished before working it into the ground around your plants.
Contact: Christine Wied, firstname.lastname@example.org