Compost quality is determined by the raw ingredients used, usually made up of animal manure, farm and garden waste, bedding, grasses, hay, leaves, and many plant by-products. The ideal PH is 6.5-8.0 and the moisture content should be 30%.
Start process 6 months to a year before you need the soil. In the breakdown phase organic residues are decomposed into smaller particles. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, amines, and finally to ammonia, nitrates, nitrates, and free nitrogen. In the build-up phase simple compounds are re-synthesized into complex substances.
The development of humus is evident in color changes in the compost. Compost and manures have only a small component of soluble nutrients; most of their nutrients must be transformed through biological processes before they become available to plants.
In the static pile method, materials are formed into a windrow, inoculated with BD preparations, covered with straw, and left undisturbed for 6 months to a year. On larger farms that handle massive volumes of compost feedstock, the piles are often managed with a compost turner, so the time to maturity is much shorter than smaller operations
Basic Steps for Compost Building
- Gather all grass clippings and green yard waste but be sure to mix with the “brown” materials like leaves and shredded paper to add carbon. You will need both – if you only add greens to your pile will compact and will start to stink.
- Do not compost meats or pet droppings.
- Avoid all pesticides and/or herbicide treated material.
- If you add weeds to your pile make sure your pile is good and hot. It should be steaming hot, not just warm otherwise it may not kill the seeds.
- Turn your pile as often as you can. Each time you turn it will speed up the process.
- Keep your compost damp but not wet. As you add material to your pile make sure that each layer is moist as it is added.
- During the summer your pile will dry out and the composting process will slow down.
- Got too much material to compost? Make a second or third pile. Stop adding material to a pile that is underway and start a new pile. This will insure you get a chance to use the compost this season.
- Add compost to fields a few weeks before you plant. Let the compost have a chance to work into the soil, try to mix it in and let it sit before you plant.
- Bugs, worms and most bugs are ok in pile, they help the process. No need to go crazy trying to keep all the bugs out of your compost unless you spot a bad one that needs to be.
Since the compost process works best at temperatures between 120 and 150 degrees, composting in the warmer months is easier to do. If this is your first attempt at composting, best to try in the summer.