July marked one year that I have been composting and it has already outlived many of my other hobbies. This is half by choice and half by virtue of the fact that composting is not an easy hobby quit. You know, with the half-rotted pile of organic matter sitting in the yard and all.
At any rate, I can’t deny that I enjoy collecting ingredients or the sense of satisfaction that I feel when steam rises as I turn the pile. As a follow up to my post, Seven Things That I Learned in My First Seven Months of Composting, here are five more things that I learned in the past five months of composting.
8. Keep the pile damp.
I kept my pile too dry in the beginning because I was paranoid about it being too wet. This ended up slowing the decomposition process. You don’t want soggy, but you don’t want barely damp either. Do you know how a washcloth feels after you wring it out? That’s what you’re aiming for.
9. Adding grass clippings is a quick way to heat up the pile.
Bag the clippings the next time that you mow the lawn. I like to mix some in with the pile and then add a top layer that is a few inches deep. Nothing that I have added to my pile has heated it up the way that grass clippings do. (You can skip the bag and leave the grass clippings on your lawn if you don’t need them for your compost. They will break down and put nutrients back in the soil.)
10. Don’t worry if the pile doesn’t change much over the winter.
Chances are it won’t unless you are lucky enough to live in a climate that is warm year-round. Keep adding your kitchen scraps and whatever other ingredients you come across. Make sure the pile stays damp and turn it once or twice a month. It will heat up quicker in the spring because of the attention and materials that you gave it over the winter.
11. Avoid adding weeds.
At least in the beginning. I read that most seeds will die as long as the pile is warm enough. The problem is that this can be difficult to gauge when you are new to composting. The temperature of the pile varies depending on size, composition, moisture, and external temperature. You will get a better handle on this with experience. I inadvertently added weeds to my pile last fall. My pile was smaller and I didn’t understand the ratio of ingredients needed to get compost cooking. Now I have this happening.
12. Make yourself stick with it for at least a year.
I started composting last July. Summer was half over. I didn’t have enough materials and I didn’t know what I was doing. The weather changed before my compost broke down much. It was a little frustrating, but I kept adding to the pile. By the time spring rolled around, I had a giant pile of garbage and shredded leaves that wasn’t very broken down at all. Within a couple of months I had compost that was nearly finished (or would be if I didn’t keep adding to it).
Feel free to add your own composting wisdom in the comments below. Please consider sharing if you found this article useful.