Question: What is the best way to compost, and what can I include in my compost pile?

Answer: To compost organic matter such as tree leaves, small twigs, grass clippings, manure, vegetable waste from the kitchen and garden stubble, you’ll want it to be finely shredded, warm and moist. That means you’ll probably need some type of enclosure, whether it’s a bin made from treated lumber or concrete blocks, or whether it’s one of the many prefabricated bins you can buy from garden and home centers. Ideally the bin will face south, so the compost will absorb the winter sun. If it’s an open pile, cover it with black plastic during the colder months to soak up solar energy. The organic matter should be run through your mower or through a grinder before you put it into the pile. Using the old hard candy theory, it will break down much more quickly if it has been “chewed up” initially. The layers should be 4 to 5 inches deep, and you can top each layer with one inch of topsoil, both to introduce microorganisms and also to conserve moisture. You might also want to add one cup of a complete-and-balanced fertilizer per cubic yard of compost. Keep the pile warm and moist, and turn it with a spading fork every month or two. It will be ready for use when the component parts are no longer recognizable, usually in 6 to 8 months.

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