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Compost can be very tricky, you will likely need to restart the pile as it is missing some important components. The Carbon to Nitrogen ratio is key when building your pile. If you think of Carbon as the brown (newspaper, paper plates, dead leaves and plants) and Nitrogen as the green (plant matter, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and manure from NON CARNIVOROUS animals or animals that only eat GREENS), it makes things slightly more straight forward. Your C:N or brown:green ration should be 3:1 in your pile. Although these are the main components they are not the only ones, you will also need water and straw. These are the four main elements to the most basic compost pile. Begin with a layer of dead plant matter like corn stalks and other “browns” (you may include the wood in this layer but it should only make up 1/3 of the “brown” layer at a time). This first layer will be the largest so plan accordingly as the layers will decrease in size as you finish building the pile. Next, top the first layer with 1/3 of the amount of manure and other “greens” as the initial “brown” layer. Completely cover these two layers with straw and spray down the pile with a hose. Repeat these three layers until you run out of materials. Once you’ve finished, cover the entire pile in straw and water down once more. You’re pile is now ready to begin breaking down. Stick a compost thermometer in the pile and let it sit for a few days or weeks depending on the weather. Once the thermometer reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit keep a close eye on it until the pile reaches 150 degrees. This is the point at which pathogens, pest eggs, and weed seeds can be broken down. Allow the pile to sit around 150 degrees for as long as possible, but as soon as it starts nearing 160 degrees turn the pile immediately! DO NOT allow your pile to exceed 170 degrees or the beneficial microbes and nutrients will begin to burn. (If you notice that the pile begins to decrease in temperature before reaching 150 degrees, turn the pile anyways). Keep doing this until your pile turns into a dark crumbly substance with a pleasant earthy smell. At that point it will be ready to use which should take 6 months to a year.
Here are some links to our composting information, books, and thermometers:
Hope it helps!
- This reply was modified 2 years ago by E. Vinje.