How to Revive Your Compost Pile
When unusual and unprecedented warm weather encompasses the eastern two-thirds of the country, many minds drift from the grey and sluggish feelings of winter to the bright and active thoughts of spring!
Although this surprise warm weather causes buds to explode everywhere, brightening up the brown landscape of late winter, it may still be too early in many locations to start planting your gardens. But, it is never too early to start planning ahead. One thing that will get you out in the garden and benefit your plants in the spring and summer, is composting!
Composting: Great for Your Garden, and Your Garbage Bill
If you haven’t started composting already, you should try. It not only cuts down on waste in your garbage bag but also offers great topsoil for your vegetable garden, potted plants, and flowers!
This article focuses more on reviving your compost pile. If you’re like me, you've probably let your compost pile just sit over the winter. The cold weather ends up killing all those microbes that eat away at the organic materials turning them into compost, which effectively shuts down your compost pile for the season. Although the microbes will gradually come back with the warmer weather there are a few things you can do to speed the process up!
- Mix compost 2-3 times a week.
- Make sure moisture level stays the same, you don’t want it too wet and you definitely don’t want it too dry!
- Add some earthworms to help speed up the process of decomposition.
- Add a 60/40 mixture of greens and browns.
- Finally, when adding food scraps and other organic materials break up into small pieces to increase the surface area exposed to decomposition.
Step One: Evaluation
The first thing you have to do is get outside and take note at how your compost pile, or bin, fared during the winter. Is there any usable compost already at the bottom? Did any large debris, like branches, damage or fall into the pile? Is the compost bin still sturdy? Does it need a tune up? Or even need to be replaced? Although these questions will gather in your mind before you begin adding more material to the compost pile.
Step Two: Mix It Up
Normally you should mix your compost pile at least once a week in order to mix oxygen and moisture into all the layers. However, to speed up the composition, especially when you are trying to revive your compost pile, I suggest mixing at least 2-3 times a week. The mixing doesn't have to be intense, just enough to mix the latest materials into the rest of the pile.
Step 3: Add Worms
It may seem strange and for some might freak them out but adding worms to your compost helps dramatically! Now I’m for the fair treatment of all animals, even little worms, so only place in your compost bin if it is a bottomless bin, although you are treating the worms to a feast you don’t want to trap them! I usually go into the backyard after a spring shower and search under some rocks and in the garden for any worms. Once I find a few I gently pick them up and put them in my compost pile. Note don’t mix your compost on the same day you add the worms; you don’t want to kill any! The worms speed up the composition process by eating a lot of the organic material. I saw a huge increase in composition after adding worms to my pile last year.
Step 4: Follow the 60/40 Rule
When adding more material to your compost follow the following rule of 60% green and 40% brown. This refers to green materials like grass, vegetable scraps and such that are high in moisture and nitrogen; brown refers to dried leaves, dried up plants, anything already in the composition process. If you follow the 60/40 rule your compost will not only keep balanced moisture levels but you will have more nutrient soil in the end!
Step 5: Keep the Pile Moist
It may not seem like it but when warm weather comes early sometimes the humidity is lagging behind. The sudden rise in temperature causes the relative humidity to plummet, making the landscape very dry. So it is very important at the beginning of spring to make sure your compost pile is moist. However, you also don’t want to flood your compost pile either!
Step 6: Small Scraps Compost Faster Than Big Ones
When you're adding table scraps and other vegetation or materials to the compost pile break them up into the smallest pieces possible to aid in decomposition. By breaking the material into smaller pieces you are actually increasing the surface area in which microbes can get to. This increased area for the microbes means the material will decompose quicker, which results in you getting topsoil earlier.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.