Composting – Part I

Today we’re going to be talking about composting in the garden, and i’m Bob
Tritten, a district horticulturist with Michigan State University Extension in
Southeast Michigan. And we’re in my home garden, and I’ve been composting now for close to 25 years in the garden, and
I have lots of experience in active composting. And active composting is a method of using the plant materials that I get from my
garden and my landscape, and eventually turning what is considered to be plant waste into good usable soil. Composting is really gaining in popularity again as gardening is gaining in popularity as well here in the late 2008 and 2010 or so period. Composting I think is one of the
simpliest to do. You do have to work at it in some times in the
year, and I’ll kind of get lay out of the steps. What we’re
looking at here are a series of bins, and I’ll work our way through these bins as I talk about
composting, but this is the raw material. This is what we
start with the in compost pile. I like to use a
variety of things in my compost pile, and I think if I get on anything for today
it’s going to be variety. It really matters in compost piles. So, what goes into a compost pile? By the way, two
months ago it’s now early to mid-July, and early in the season this
compost is essentially this whole bin
is empty and you can see how much material I’ve accumulated. I start with kitchen scraps, and we probably dump a couple of
these buckets into the compost pile a week simply from the kitchen, and usually that happens year round. It doesn’t matter if spring, summer, winter, or fall that I generate a fair amount of material
right from the kitchen. Other materials that can go into a compost pile: these
are simply parts of plants that I’ve
dead headed from my flower garden. Notice when I’m
putting these materials into a compost pile I’m trying to spread them out the best I can. And I’ll talk a little bit
about layering in just a minute. Here’s another
group of flowers that I’ve just cut from my hosta that are finished for the year,
and some other onion related plants from my garden. And again I’m simply dumping those on top. Spreading them out best I can. Another material that you can use in a compost pile is coffee grounds. I stop at the coffee
shop a little bit earlier in the week, and they basically have bags of used coffee grounds. Now, these are a little bit wet right now, but they’ll dry out real nicely this week, and will compost very well. One of the things that I don’t put in the compost pile: they
would include meat scraps from the from the house; no bones or any parts of of an animal. I prefer not to use pine cones, I find that they don’t
compost very well. So I simply to stay away from cones
in the compost pile. I generally don’t put any kind of wood in the compost pile. It would take maybe three or four more
years for this wood to breakdown and to become effective compost. So, those are some of the things that I don’t put into the compost pile. The process is rather simple. When I have a little bit
more of a layer of plant material, usually I’ll take
a compost fork– and I’ll talk about these in just a minute– and I’ll go over and I’ll get a little bit of compost from a couple years ago, and I’ll simply spread that on top. And this I’ll do every week or so during the season. This layering effect is really the secret to to good high quality compost. Sometimes I also take some topsoil that I have a little pile
next to my compost pile here, and I’ll take a little bit of
topsoil I’m accumulated, and I’ll just sprinkle that over the top as well. The real secret to composting is this layering effect, and you can see it that the ending effect of this layering
that’s taking place in this compost pile. Slowly over the summer is worms work away in here; earthworms and red round worms. This compost will
simply decompose, and the pile will keep getting smaller as I continue to add material. So, that’s the steps involved in composting throughout the season.

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