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Composting is a natural process of decomposition and recycling of kitchen and yard wastes. Once decomposed, the resulting material makes an excellent addition to soil in flower and vegetable gardens or general use around the yard.

Composting Ingredients
Compostable material comprises about 30% of the solid waste stream heading into our landfills each day. Ingredients for a successful compost pile include a mix of "greens" (items that are high in nitrogen) and "browns" (items that are high in carbon). Some examples include:

Green (Nitrogen Materials) Brown (Carbon Materials)
  • grass clippings
  • vegetable waste
  • manure
  • coffee grounds
  • fruit and fruit peels
  • leaves
  • hay/straw
  • wood ashes
  • chipped wood & brush
  • paper
Materials to Avoid
        • Butter
        • Mayonnaise
        • Bones
        • Meat, Poultry or Fish
        • Cat or Dog Manure
        • Milk, Cheese and other dairy products
        • Oils or lard

Building and Managing Your Compost Pile

The material you add to your compost pile will gradually be decomposed by various microorganisms, which will include various insects that you can see and other organisms you won't see. As the decomposition occurs, the compost pile will heat up and a well managed pile will reach temperatures between 90 and 140 F. Here are some tips to help build a good compost pile.

Step 1. Select a Location
Select a location for your pile. A good location should allow some shade and protection from high winds. It should also be easily accessible and have a little extra space for stockpiling materials.
Step 2. Start Your Pile
Once you select your location, collect enough "brown" and "green" material to build a pile that measures about 3 feet square by 3 feet high.
Step 3. Shred Your Material
As you add green and brown materials to the pile, be sure they have been broken up or shredded into small pieces. This helps provide more area for the organisms to feed on, helps promote aeration, and helps retain moisture.
Step 4. Build Your Pile
Once the material is collected and shredded, build your pile by layering with alternating green material and brown material layers. Start with a layer of brown material at the bottom 3" to 6" thick and place a 3" to 6" green layer on top of that. Continue layering until your pile reaches the 3 foot square by 3 foot high size. It is also helpful to water each layer as it is added to promote rapid decomposition.
Step 5. Mix Your Pile
Once you build your pile, use a pitchfork, shovel, or hoe to thoroughly turn and mix the material. It is also a good idea to turn your pile occassionally during the compost process. Turning can be done as frequently as every few days, once every couple of weeks, or never at all. Just remember that the more frequently you turn and mix the pile, the sooner the decomposition process will be complete.
Step 6. Cover Your Pile
The final step is to cover your pile with a lid or tarp, depending on its size. This will help protect the pile from heavy rain and retain heat.
Step 7. Maintain Your Pile
Managing your pile during the composting process will help ensure the best results. Managing your pile includes watering it and turning it. On average, turning the pile should occur about once per week. Watering it once per week is also recommended to help maintain adequate moisture. Be sure not to overwater, though. The best way to determine if a pile has adequate moisture is to grab a handful of material and squeeze it. It should feel like a squeezed-out sponge. If it's too dry, add some water with a garden hose or watering can. If it's too wet, simply keep checking the pile as normal until it dries out somewhat.

Using Your Finished Compost
Finished compost can be used to build healthy lawns, for gardens, for mulch and even for potting soil. Compost adds valuable nutrients to your soil, increases organic matter in the soil, improves soil structure, and balances pH. As a result of this, compost helps reduce stress on your plants, lawn, shrubs, etc. and can extend the growing season by helping you grow healthier, hardier greenery. Compost also helps control soil erosion and retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for watering from a hose.



For more information email
Connie Akerson or call 498-8736 or toll free in Maine

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