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MAKING COMPOST from the Organic Manual
Compost is a living fertilizer that can be made at home or purchased ready to use. A compost pile can be started at any time of the year. Anything once alive can and should be composted. Good ingredients include leaves, hay, grass clippings, tree trimmings, food scraps, dead animals, bark, sawdust, rice hulls, weeds, spoiled food, nut hulls, animal manure, and anything else that was once alive. Mix the ingredients together in a container of wood, hay bales, hog wire, or concrete blocks or simply pile the material on the ground. Unless space is limited, free standing piles are preferred.
The ideal mixture is 80% vegetative matter and 20% animal waste, although any mix will compost. The ingredients should be basically a mix of coarse and fine-textured material. Avoid having all the pieces of material the same size.
Large particles help aerate the pile and smaller pieces are needed to help hold moister and protect microbes.
Try to turn the pile at least once a month; oxygen speeds up the process. Keep the pile moist, roughly the moisture of a squeezed-out sponge, to help the living microorganisms thrive and work their magic. If you never turn the pile, it will still compost – it will just be slower.
Compost is ready to use when the ingredients are no longer identifiable. The color will be dark brown, the texture soft and crumbly, and the aroma that of a forest floor. Use compost in all bed preparation and as a high-quality mulch around annuals and perennials.
Compost location: Anywhere, sun or shade, on soil or on concrete.
Compost ingredients: Anything that was once alive.
Compost balance: To encourage a higher percentage of fungal activity compared with bacterial activity, add rock phosphate and keep the pile drier.