Dominican Home Gardener strip
Dominican Home Gardener strip

At the root of every great garden is a great compost pile. Compost is an amazing organic powerhouse of nutrients. Nutrients that help to keep soil loose, workable, and most importantly, completely energized. We use it absolutely everywhere we can in our garden, and in our flower beds, containers and hanging baskets as well.

1 Give every plant its share. Compost is a mixture of residues from organic materials that have undergone decomposition. Add a shovel-full of compost to every single planting hole and watch them grow.

2 Great for Soil Improvement. Not only does compost help to build incredible soil tilth and structure over time, it also acts as a perfect slow-release fertilizer, gently providing a low-dose of nutrients to your plant's root systems all year long.

3 Use The Right Mix of Materials. To get the most from a compost pile, it takes a proper balance of brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen) materials. Brown materials consist of leaves, straw, wood shavings, dead grass, small twigs, etc. vegetable scraps are a great "green" addition to the compost pile. Greens on the other hand are materials like vegetable peels, coffee grounds, green grass and plant clippings. Greens can also be animal by-products such as chicken and rabbit manures. They are the "fuel" that gets the pile cooking!

4 So What Should the Ratio of Browns to Greens ? A great rule of thumb is for every 4 parts of brown materials, add in 1-part green. And it doesn't have to be all at the same time either. If you add in 4 buckets of shredded leaves, then a bucket of vegetable peels or fresh green grass needs to go in to balance it out

5 What Not to Put in Your Compost Pile. It's also important to know what not to put in your pile. Meat is a big no-no. It attracts rats, mice, raccoons and other unwanted animals, and can lead to foul smelling piles. In addition – refrain from using dog or cat manure as it can contaminate your pile.

6 Making Your Pile the Right Size. If a pile is too small, the materials never "heat up" enough to decompose quickly. And if it is too big, it becomes difficult to turn and mix. As you will see in the next tip, that turning and mixing is a big part of a successful pile. A good bin should be between 3′ x 3′ and 5′ x 5″. This keeps the pile manageable, but still big enough to heat up. So what is the best size? For best results, a pile or compost bin between 3′ x 3′ x 3′high, to 5′ x 5′ x 3′ high works best. It allows for a pile big enough to have thermal heat, but not so big that it's hard to turn.

7 Use Available Materials. Old wooden stakes, chicken wire, fencing boards and even blocks or brick work well. One of the biggest keys to a fast-working compost pile is to chop the ingredients before tossing them in. As a rule, the smaller the item going in, the quicker it decomposes.

8 Turn the Pile Often. Like all living creatures, the organisms that help to break down a compost pile need oxygen. Turning the pile frequently (with a spade or pitchfork) helps to add oxygen to the center core. Turning the pile at least once a week will help your compost pile decompose quickly. In addition, the brown and green materials become mixed more thoroughly as well, helping to speed decomposition even faster.

9 Keep The Pile Moist. It is vital to keep the pile moist. In addition to oxygen, compost needs water to keep it cooking. A good compost pile should feel like a slightly damp sponge. Just like plants, compost piles need water to thrive. And remember, at the end of the day, everything will compost eventually.

10 When Will I know it's Ready to Use? Ultimately, when the waste looks like crumbly, dark humus and you can no longer recognize what the original materials were, your compost is ready!