Master Gardener Presentation Notes > Composting and Soil Preparation

Composting and Soil Preparation

(These are the notes from our talks on composting, February 2002.)

A presentation by Cheryl Knox

Grape juice ---anaerobic -> wine  ----aerobic-----> ��� vinegar

Plant material --anaerobic -> silage  ---aerobic-- -> composting

Learning point:  set up the conditions to get what you want. 

To Compost:

  • Choose container and site.  Container should exclude animals and provide easy access for turning.  Site should be in partial sun.
  • Turn the compost pile � aeration critical � once a week during the growing (warm) season. 
  • Check moisture (not soggy, not dry)
  •  Balance of Nitrogen (wet, nutrient-rich as in grass clippings and dead rabbits) to Carbon (dry plant material � cellulose as in Fall leaves and Spring thatch). This balance (more Carbon than Nitrogen) creates the heat in the compost pile by feeding the microbes that break everything down to compost.  Compost pile should reach 140F in center.  Kills pathogens and seeds.  Turning assures all parts get hot.

In this climate, the whole process takes 1 year (90 warm days).  Best logic to have 2 compost piles � one for current year�s wastes and one perking from last year�s wastes (that froze over the winter).

Raw materials for the Compost Pile 

  • Spare grass clippings if you don�t use a mulching mower
  • Non-diseased plant material � chop with bagging lawnmower.  e.g. Tomato plants with blight go to the curbside for landfill.
  • Leaves
  • Wood shavings; wood chips  (Avoid wood parts with pine tar.)
  • Refrigerator � dead broccoli, green fuzzy casseroles, etc
  • Vegetable trimmings, onion skins, banana peels, egg shells, etc
  • Always a warning about animal products � meat, grease, etc. These can attract scavengers, but some turned in well are OK.

When your compost is finished, sift it.  Homemade sifter = hardware cloth on a frame that fits into a wheelbarrow.



Saint John's Community Garden Society

Copyright � 2005 College of Saint Benedict | Saint John's University
All rights reserved.
Last revised on October 23, 2009.