Here at Dare 2 Dream farms we get a lot of compost going all year long. From the abundant chicken droppings, to bedding of pine shavings, and tons of vegetable matter that is pulled from the garden, there are mountains of compost created each year, which we put back into our garden to renew the health of the soil. We also compost buckets full of organic waste from our household including:
vegetable and fruit peels, tops, and scraps
tea leaves and bags
paper towel and toilet paper rolls
Our compost piles are enormous and can only be turned with our tractor. Unlike composting bins, with aeration and a turning mechanism, our piles break down at a slower rate. The ratio of carbon-based additives (pine shavings, cardboard, newspaper, and paper towels) to nitrogen-based additives (food waste, garden waste, manure) help the compost to "cook" properly, breaking down the matter, burning the pathogens, and creating a compost rich in nutrients, not too acidic and not too alkaline, for seeds to grow in the garden.
Compost is like special medicine for a healthy soil. When adding compost, there are an abundance of nutrients, vitamins, and other living substances that work with the soil to create life. When compost is mixed in to the soil, each layer of the plant roots has a chance to take up any nutrients that it will need for growth.
Activators, such as chicken manure, young weeds and grass clippings, are all still “living” and actually bring life to the compost. Since weeds and grass break down easily, they start a process of breaking down with the rest of the food waste and ingredients within the compost. Chicken manure, since it is digested and broken down with enzymes, can be a great way to kick start the break down process as well. Activators are a great additive to any compost to initiate the decomposition and prevent plant matter and food waste from just sitting in a pile and rotting.
A compost pile or bin is ready for use when it looks dark brown and shows consistency in its composition. The temperature can be too hot to touch. You can always use a thermometer to test your own compost and make sure it has reached a level between 130-150 degrees F. At this temperature, all unpleasant bacteria has had a chance to break down and be recycled into the rich compost to be used.
If planning on using compost to incorporate into your vegetable garden beds, it is not recommended to use any chemicals, grass clippings that may contain pesticides, or unnatural substances. Steer clear from things that you would not normally consume. Everything that is adding into your compost will be absorbed by future seedlings.