Build A Pile
First, make a flat top pile of material on the ground. Enclose the material
with some type of open-weave fence wire such as chainlink fence or strong
poultry wire. A wood fence will work well also. This fence stops the material
from being scattered by winds, animals or birds.
After about a foot of materials has been gathered, put on about 3 in. of soil
to provide the bacteria that promote decomposition. Water the pile often enough
to keep all material damp but not soaking wet, so that the bacteria are
encouraged to work. Keep adding compostable material as it becomes available.
Lay added material against the fence rather than heaping up the middle. This
helps to keep water on the pile instead of shedding it. If the compost pile is
constantly warm to hot as material is added, you are getting decomposition. If
the pile is cool to cold, no decomposition is taking place. The problem may be
that the pile is too wet, so reduce the watering. It could be too compacted, so
fork over the material to aerate it; or it could be nutritionally out of
balance. In this case, adding one pound of a complete fertilizer (10-20-10) per
cubic yard or material will get the process moving.
If composting is properly done during the fall and winter months, you will
have a pile of valuable garden material to use by spring soil preparation time.
Compost material adds to the physical condition of the soil. It improves soil
workability, provides nitrogen and other soil nutrients and also increases the
water-holding capacity of the soil. It aids in keeping plant roots warm in
winter and cool in the summer.
Large amounts of compost are needed before much change in soil conditions is
noticed; therefore, it should be used very liberally and regularly.
The course, semi-decayed woody material is suitable as a mulch to put on top
of the soil around the plants. The decayed material is good for digging into the
soil together with commercial fertilizer at preparation time.