My husband and I recently purchased 3 acres, and I hope to grow plenty of fruits and vegetables next spring. I'm hoping to create quality compost throughout the winter. Besides kitchen scraps, we also have a small horse and goat for, um, fertilizer. Any tips on creating a quality compost (on a budget) would be greatly appreciated!
Hardiness Zone: 5a
Stacey from Dorr, MI
Compost is easy and free, It doesn't require any budget. You can even make it by just throwing all the waste into a pile and turning it over every few weeks. Or, you can use fencing or pallets to keep it in one area, or even use a dark colored trash barrel or plastic container. The black absorbs the heat and makes the process go quicker.
Composting requires heat and moisture. Green plants and manure will give off the heat. But, during the winter the heat can be hard to maintain.
After you compost for about 2 years, you should have a routine where one batch is ready to use, while another batch is still cooking.
I compost manure, kitchen scraps, garden waste, grass clippings, leaves.
Just remember equal parts brown and green. Brown means wood, in this case, so use shavings for bedding for the horse and pick out the horse cookies daily. Green means juicy plant or grass or what used to be that, so if your animals have pasture and are eating grass or bright alfalfa hay, then their manure is the green. Add more shavings to the mix if it's more green than woody-brown.
Straw counts as woody unless it's too fine. Sheet composting is a euphemism for putting manure wherever it's ultimately going to end up. It makes sense to let it compost slowly there, rather than doing a compost project, if it will use up enough. Get with your county extension agent (look under the county pages for 'cooperative extension' and they will give you guidance on how soon it's safe to eat. Both horses and goats carry parasites that transmit to humans, every place, even with good deworming schedules. Good luck.
Flip your compost, aerate and shake loose and turn over your compost pile every week so that new oxygen gets in and turbo-charges the compost power. A steaming pile is doing nicely. I use a tumbler container to make turning small batches easy, but good composting happens best when the compost is three feet minimum in diameter.
Your compost should actually have more brown than green to really cook. Newspaper (avoid shiny ads) and pizza boxes are good sources. Coffee grounds and eggshell contribute valuable nutrients. It is a good idea to start a second pile the second year and it doen need to be about 3 feet square to really start to heat up. The smaller the pieces you put into it, the sooner it will break down. Tear the paper/cardboard up if you want it to compost quicker.
I use concret blocks, to form my compost bin.You can use wire cages, right in your garden.You can bury your waste,in the garden.Go to organic gardening. com, they have a newbie diss. group. You will love this site !!
I have just read from another gardening newsletter, that you can take all your kitchen waste over the winter, and blend it into a liquid form. You can then pour it directly over places where you will garden in spring, or over existing flower beds. In cold climates, winter isn't the best time for "cooking", so this works as an alternative. Good luck.
If you can save the horse & goat manure it makes very good fertilizer for a garden. It needs to be dry before you plant seed in it. You can also get 40 pound bags of manure at Lowe's ready to use, good luck.
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