A compost pile turns grass clippings, dead leaves, food waste and other organic materials into a rich soil amendment when the materials are mixed in the proper ratio and maintained correctly. The Utah State University Extension advises a moisture level between 40 and 65 percent to ensure rapid and thorough composting in your pile. Monitoring the moisture level by feel provides a sufficient gauge to determine the water needs of your pile for successful composting. (See References 2)
Items you will need:
- Water hose
- Hose spray attachment
Spray dry compost materials with water as you add them to the pile. Wood chips and dead leaves may suck moisture from the other composting materials if added in bulk. Spray these materials until they are as damp as a wrung-out sponge. (See References 1)
Check the moisture level of established piles at least once a month, especially during dry weather. Squeeze a handful of the compost. Properly moistened compost feels moist but water droplets do not squeeze out. Dry compost crumbles in your hand and you can feel very little moisture in the materials.
Wet down the top of the pile if the compost has dried. Turn the materials with a pitchfork, fully incorporating the newly moistened materials into the center of the pile. The composting process slows down if the interior of the pile dries out (see References 2).
Add dry materials to the pile if the compost is overly moist. Straw, sawdust, dry leaves or shredded newspaper absorb the excess moisture. Incorporate these materials into the pile with a pitchfork. Wet conditions inhibit air circulation in the center of the pile, stopping the decomposition process. (See References 2, page 4)
- Cover the pile with a tarp to trap existing moisture during hot weather. A tarp also prevents the pile from becoming overly wet during heavy rain or snow.
- A properly built and moistened compost pile typically completes the decomposing process in one to six months (see References 2, page 4). However, it is wise to allow the compost to cure for a few extra weeks to be certain that all chemical reactions have been completed.
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.
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