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Summertime is a great time to compost. It’s nice outside – there are lots of available kitchen and garden scraps to add to the pile – and you can make batches so much quicker with the hotter temperatures. Here are four quick tips to help keep your compost bin successfully cooking through the heat so you can add “black gold” to your garden!
1. TURN BABY TURN!
Keep the air moving in the pile – A pile needs oxygen to really start cooking. By turning the pile more frequently (with a spade or pitchfork every few days), you keep it alive and hot – and you are making sure to incorporate all of the materials more thoroughly. In the summer – the more you turn – the more the pile can heat up and burn. Once a day is optimum – but at least every few days to keep it hot and going. If you add scraps each day – just use that time to turn – it just takes a few seconds, and the reward is finished compost in a third of the time!
2. A LITTLE H2O PLEASE!
Water- that’s right – keep that pile moist. In the summer heat – especially here in Ohio where we are experiencing no rain and a lot of heat – you need to add some water to the pile to keep it moist. Don’t drench it and don’t let it dry out – just add some water every few days to keep some moisture content in the pile and keep it cooking.
3. CHOP AND BURY THE GOODS
Summertime also means active animal time – so if you have an open style compost bin – or if animals can get to it – make sure to bury the additions to the pile to minimize the attraction to vermin. Whether you have a shredder, an old lawn mower to run over the scraps with, or a big knife or spade to chop it all up with – keep what you are adding to the pile in smaller sizes and it will decompose that much quicker. It will also be easier to bury in the pile and be less attractive to skunks, raccoons and scavengers. Remember to never add meats or oils – they are harder to compost and really attract the pests.
4. MADE IN THE SHADE
Our compost bin is out in the open in the middle of the garden – when it start to get really hot – we will put a few boards or a piece of roofing over the top to help keep the moisture in and the sun from drying it completely out. So give your bin some shade – and if you keep an open pile – cover it with a burlap sack or some straw to keep in the moisture.
SO GET THAT COMPOST GOING!
Get that compost cooking. Add all of those summer salad remnants, coffee grounds, melon rhines, corn husks and all the other good “extras” that come out of the summer kitchen. Remember that finished compost should be fine and sweet smelling and cool to the touch. If you are turning the pile and still feeling heat – it’s still cooking and is not ready. If its broken down, sweet-smelling and cool to the touch – it’s ready to use! When you get a batch that is looking close to being good – start a new one for new materials – and turn the old one for a few more weeks to finish it off.
It’s an incredible side dressing and mulch to your summer garden plants.
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary