How to Make Top-Notch Compost for Your Garden

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Have you mastered the basics of home composting and want to take your eco-friendly hobby to the next level? Here’s six tips to help you go beyond simply reducing your household’s waste and use composting to create a high-quality soil amendment to use around your garden.

Tip #1: Remember to water your compost pile, so it is as damp as a well wrung-out sponge. Photo: Flickr/fishermansdaughter

1. Maintain the moisture

You already know that you need to regularly water your compost pile, but the importance of maintaining moisture levels cannot be emphasized enough, says Cary Oshins, director of education and outreach for the U.S. Composting Council and avid home composter since 1976.

To encourage decomposition, your compost pile should be neither too wet nor too dry; it should be as damp as a well wrung-out sponge.

Back to Basics: Cheat Sheet: Composting

2. Speed up the process

There are several ways to encourage your compost pile’s microbes and worms to break down food scraps and yard clippings faster, Oshins says.

If you’re starting a new compost pile, adding some finished compost – which should take up no more than 5-10 percent of the pile – will introduce microbes and accelerate the decomposition process.

Big, dry pieces of yard debris like large branches or pruned shrubs will take longer to break down in your compost pile, but you can chop up the material into smaller pieces to increase their surface area and help them decompose faster. But don’t make the pieces too small, Oshins advises, as that would interfere with air flow through the pile.

Don’t worry about slicing up your food scraps if you’re tossing them into a compost pile with yard trimmings, Oshins says; they will already be small enough to break down without difficulty. But if you’re feeding your leftover fruits and veggies to worms in your worm composting bin, you may want to chop up the materials – and even run them through the blender – to help your wriggly friends chow down more easily.

Another method for making quicker compost: Build a one-time pile of food scraps and yard waste, and don’t add any more material in subsequent weeks. Tossing in more waste over time will prolong the decomposition process and prevent you from achieving a finished product sooner.

Find Out: How to Choose the Right Composting System for You

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