Fidel ManzanoNo matter what composting program you decide to use, from a simple pile on the ground to an enclosed container, the important key is to have variety in the types of organic materials you throw into the mix. Use your own creative variations on the theme. What is most important is that you use your knowledge about the inputs and discover what works best for you and your garden.

Remember that mixing green and brown in equal proportions yield black gold. Layer nitrogen-rich materials, such as grass clippings and green leafy plants with carbon-rich materials such as dry, brown leaves and twigs. Too much of one versus the other will slow down the decomposition process or hinder it altogether. The nitrogen-rich organic materials provide the energy and the carbon-rich organic materials provide the fuel, while oxygen is introduced with the occasional turning of the compost heap. Make sure the pile is kept slightly moist but not soggy by exposing the compost heap to rain or a sprinkler.

Too much green organic inputs will produce an unpleasant odor. To prevent the aroma from becoming unbearable, spread the green material around and add a thin layer of soil or old compost to speed up the decomposition process. Garden soil and rotting leaves have beneficial micro-organisms that will aid in the transformation of the compost.

Too much brown organic inputs will not decompose properly and will just sit unchanged. If necessary, chop up the brown materials, aerate the pile and add more green materials.

Adding solid waste from farm animals enriches the compost. Solid waste from domestic pets is not recommended. Manure from farm animals ideally should be “cooked” at between 120 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the germination of seeds passed through from food fed to the farm animals. A compost thermometer would be a handy instrument to check the compost temperature to make sure that the compost stays in the desired temperature range.

Exposing the compost heap to some sun enables good decomposition; darkness will stop it.