Making Compost With Passive Approach
Making compost using the passive method is very simple. Anything that is organic from the kitchen or the yard is fair game. We are talking about weeds pulled from the garden, grass clippings if you don’t leave them on the lawn, leaves falling in autumn, and kitchen garbage (no meat products). The exception might be unshredded sticks and branches which take years to decompose and make working with the material in the pile very difficult. Although many books and articles describe precise formulas and ratios of materials for a compost pile, they are unnecessarily complicated. All that is really necessary is a supply of organic yard waste and a place to deposit it. Use a bin or a wire cage, or just dump the material in an open pile.
Making The Pile
While dumping yard waste randomly in a heap will eventually reduce the volume of yard stuff and produce compost, there are some tricks if you don’t want to wait the two years to start getting your return in compost. By using all the tricks listed below a homeowner can transform yard waste into finished some compost in three to six months.
Shred The Pile - Organic materials that are shredded or chopped will decompose much faster than materials that are not chopped. The idea then is to find a way to shred the compost materials before placing them in the pile. Use a lawn mower, leaf shredder or multi-purpose shredder/chipper to chop the leaves before putting them in the pile and they will compost in about one year.
Adding Compost Activators – There on the market a number of products labeled to speed the composting process. They will work if they are mixed in to the pile as it is being built, but they are definitely an option. You can get a similar effect if as you build the pile you through a handful or two of plain old dirt into the mix. Ordinary lawn or garden soil contains billions of bacteria that speed up the composting process. Then you can throw a handful or two of soil into the pile every so often when adding chopped leaves to the bin.
Composting With Worms - Earthworms love to eat leaves. Add some earthworms to the pile to help speed up the decomposition process. While any worms help, the best ones are "composting worms" or red worms. They live happily in compost piles but do not survive in regular garden soil. One thousand worms cost about $10 and accelerate the composting process by about 2 months. Don't add the worms in the fall, because they might not survive the winter. Wait until spring.
Add Garbage But No Meat Products - Never include any meat scraps or meat products such as bones, gravy or grease in a compost pile. They will not only cause the compost pile to smell badly but they may also attract rodents. However, non-meat kitchen waste is suitable for a compost pile. Because most kitchen waste falls into the category of green stuff, cover the new layer of fresh kitchen garbage with an inch or two of chopped leaves, sawdust, or even straw or mix it into the top area of the pile to avoid odor problems and attracting varmints.
Dealing With Woody Materials - Woody plant materials such as wood chips, pine cones, brush and twigs take a long time to decompose even when they are shredded. If you have a shredder, then this material should be made into chips and used immediately as mulch under trees, shrubs, and in paths.
Harvesting The Compost
Compost is finished and ready to use when it is mostly black in color. It can be lumpy because some things are not yet decomposed. Lumpy compost is just as good as compost that is so far decomposed it has no lumps. Don't try to sort out the lumps unless you have nothing more important to do.
Usually a passive pile will produce usable compost in a year sometimes, but more likely in two years from the time the pile was started. You check the status of the pile by moving a part of the pile away from the material on the bottom of the pile. If you see a few inches of black stuff, then you've got some compost. Some folks will simply move the top of the pile to the left or the right so they can get to the finished compost. Other folks, less energetic, simply lift up the edge of the pile and rake out some compost. Either way works.
How much are we talking about? It depends on a bunch of variables, but usually a pile that is 4 feet wide and 4 feet long and three or four feet tall will produce at least a bushel of compost every year and probably more.
Once you have some compost from your passive pile and you are still adding new material to the pile, you now have a continuous supply of a small amount of valuable compost year in and year out.