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Composting
COMPOSTING - The How To

MAKING THE BIN
Cut a 12½ foot-length of 3 foot by 2 x 4 inch welded wire fencing. Connect the ends to form a cylinder.

"INS AND OUTS"
Things to put in:  Carbon: Leaves do not need to be shredded. About 15-20 bags will fill a bin.

Water. Put the bin where you can reach it with a hose, but well away from water sources (well houses or streams).

Nitrogen: Rabbit food (alfalfa), manure, fresh green plant trimmings, organic or chemical fertilizers (33-0-0 or urea 48-0-0) all contain nitrogen.
 
Things to keep out: dog and cat waste, meat and bones, grease (oil and dairy - dispose of in garbage), herbicide or pesticide treated plants, magnolia leaves and pine needles (very slow), weeds gone to seed, coal ash (wood ash is ok), diseased plants, invasive weeds, grass clippings (keep those on your yard after mowing known as grasscycling).
 
KITCHEN SCRAPS
Kitchen scraps make fine compost, but they can lead to problems with animals, insects and odor. Beginning composters may want to start with leaves alone. If you add kitchen scraps to your leaf compost, add small amounts (less than a gallon) at a time and bury completely under 8 inches of leaves. Other good options to compost kitchen scraps are to use commercial compost bins or worm farming. Remember: Never add kitchen scraps to a "lazy" pile.
 
Making a batch of hot compost
When making a hot and fast pile, it's best to make compost in "batches." Fill your bin to the top with the right mix of materials. This is aerobic composting, powered by microbes that require oxygen.
 
Repeat the following steps three times until the bin is full.
 
Add one foot of leaves (about five bags) to the bin, then pack down with rake.
Add a layer of nitrogen rich material. One choice is a 50lb. bag of rabbit food (alfalfa) or the equivalent amount of nitrogen.
Add water to "squeezed out sponge" consistency (about 50%); mix materials well with a pitchfork or hoe.

Maintaining your pile
You'll know your pile is working when it heats up in the middle and then slowly cools down after about a week. If your pile doesn't get hot, it may have too little moisture or nitrogen. Turning the pile helps aerate and break up materials and is a good time to add water, if needed. We recommend turning after one week, then every 3 weeks, for a total of 4 turns. Your compost is ready when materials are dark, crumbly and soil-like. Usually the pile shrinks to 1/2 to 1/3 of its original size. This takes from 12 weeks to a year, depending on the season and the materials used. Reminder: if you add kitchen scraps, bury them deep and don't overload the pile.

"Lazy" Leaf Compost (ready in 2 years)
The "cool and slow " method costs nothing and provides compost in about two years, sometimes less. It requires no turning and little special attention. Simply set aside an area in a secluded corner of your yard for piling up fallen leaves and other organic materials. Place piles well away from creeks or streams to make sure they don't fall in. Over two years or less, the material on the bottom will compost. Pull back the top layers, and use the rotted material in your garden. Lawn trimmings can be placed on the pile. Do not include kitchen scraps in this sort of pile.
 
USING COMPOST
Each year, you can expect to harvest about 8-10 wheelbarrow loads (12 cubic feet) of compost per bin – enough to add 1 inch top dressing to four large flower or vegetable beds (3 x 12 feet each).
 
Annual one-inch top applications improve the soil for almost all garden plants – shrubs, flowers, perennials like daylilies and mums, azaleas, and vegetables.
To rejuvenate an impoverished soil or establish a new vegetable plot, apply 2 to 3 inches of compost, and dig it into the soil.
Compost can also be screened for use in potting mixes and with houseplants.
 
BUYING COMPOST
High quality compost and mulch products are available from Mecklenburg County. 
 






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