Thomas J. Koske | 4/21/2005 9:11:13 PM
It is said that "compost happens," but there are better ways to manage a compost pile than just to let it happen, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
Proper heap management produces a superior and safe product in a minimal amount of time. This process needs organic matter, oxygen, moisture and microbes, but there is more to it than that, Koske says.
The horticulturist explains that compost materials should be more succulent and less woody for fastest results. "There are carbon-to-nitrogen ratios that professional composters worry about, but for home use, 3 or 4 parts of green stuff to 1 part of brown materials will yield an active mix of materials," Koske says, adding, "Smaller pieces also will decay faster."
Most natural materials are not sterile and will bring microbes with them, but if you desire faster starts, just sprinkle some native topsoil in and onto the heap.
The way to get more oxygen into the heap is to turn the pile and get fresh material into the center. Do this every four days for fastest results.
"Remember that complete composting will break down most organic substances, but if not completely broken down, whole pieces may still exist," Koskes says, adding, "Thus, weeds with seeds or diseased materials, etc. may escape complete destruction."
The LSU AgCenter horticulturist recommends these items for composting: grass clippings, leaves, weeds, shrub and flower prunings, vegetable leftovers, produce trimmings, manures, straw, hay, sawdust, coffee grounds, hair, fur, lint and old mulches.
Koske says not to compost these items: weeds gone-to-seed, BBQ charcoal, bones, meat, grease, dairy products, solid wastes from cats, and dogs or humans, plastic, metal or glass, contaminated matter, wood, chips, branches and newspapers (put in recycle bin).
For information on related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.