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Composting

Materials To Compost
All organic materials contain carbon and nitrogen in varying proportions. To create ideal conditions for composting, add and mix equal parts (by volume) of "green" high-nitrogen materials and "brown" high-carbon materials. This blend will provide the bacteria and other decomposer organisms the proper proportions of carbon and nitrogen.

Greens are fresh, moist, nitrogen-rich plant materials that still have some life in them (fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, fresh leaves, yard prunings, etc.).

From Your Garden
- green plants
- garden trimmings
- fresh leaves & flowers
- grass clippings (see leave on the lawn)

From Your Kitchen/Home
- fruit & vegetable scraps
- coffee grounds & tea bags
- manure & bedding from plant eating animals ONLY

Browns are dry, carbon-rich plant materials with no life in them (fall leaves, shredded paper, straw, wood chips, twigs, etc.).

From Your Garden
- fall leaves, twigs & woody prunings
- dry plant material
- straw & hay
- pine needles
- potting soil

From Your Kitchen/Home
- bread & grains
- egg shells
- nutshells
- corncobs
- food-soiled paper towels & napkins
- shredded newspaper

Remember, you want to keep a balance between the materials in the "greens" list and the "browns" list. Without enough greens, a pile will decompose very slowly, and without enough browns the pile may smell bad. In general, it's better to err on the side of too many browns, so you should stockpile dry, carbon-rich material, such as fall leaves or shredded newspaper, to add to your bin throughout the year.

Don't forget that two other ingredients, air and water, are also needed to ensure that your compost pile transforms itself into a mound of black gold.

How To Compost
1.Select a compost bin based on the space you have available for composting, the materials you want to compost, your budget, and the amount of time you want to spend tending your pile.

2.Select an appropriate spot for your compost pile, bin or tumbler. Dry, shady spots work best; if possible, locate your pile near a water source and the garden where you intend to use the compost you can set up your bin in the sun or in the shade and it can be on either concrete or soil. However, soil is preferable to ensure access to decomposer organisms and to prevent stains on the concrete surface.

3.Shred or chop ingredients into small pieces; smaller pieces break down faster.

4.Spread a 6-inch layer of "browns," dried materials rich in carbon, such as dead leaves or paper shreds. If necessary, use a hose or watering can to moisten the materials until they feel as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

5.Add 3-inch layers of nitrogen-rich "greens" alternated with 3-inch layers of the browns; these are moist, fresh materials, like kitchen scraps, vegetarian livestock manures and fresh grass clippings. Moisten the layer if needed. In order to achieve optimal performance of your compost heap, you should maintain at least a 3-to-1 ratio of browns to greens. Your pile should be at least about a cubic yard to achieve the heat that helps break down the materials into compost.

6.Sprinkle a handful of healthy garden soil or finished compost on top; this boosts levels of soil microbes needed to break down materials into compost.


7.Turn your compost pile every one to two weeks using a garden fork. Mix the layers and check for pockets that are dry or over-saturated. Add water, as needed, or mix wet patches in with drier materials. Pull materials from the sides of the pile into the middle of the heap, where they will heat up and break down faster.


Rodent-Proofing Your Bin
Rodent-proofing should not be necessary if your compost bin is enclosed. However, if rats are a problem in your area, you can take the following steps to make your bin more rodent resistant:

Add screens or hardware cloth to areas where rats and other burrowing animals can get through.
If your bin is placed on the soil, lay a piece of screen between the soil and the bottom of the bin.
Turn material regularly to prevent nesting.
In especially tough cases, add a vertical screen (6 to 8 inches into the ground) around the perimeter of the bin.
Avoid adding materials that attract pests (meat, dairy, oils) and ensure food scraps are well concealed beneath a 2-3 inch layer of "browns" such as fall leaves.


Rain water collection
generators
alternative fuel - wood, wind, solar, water
making a natural home- climate control
Irrigating gardens
creating natural system of fertilizing

The amount of nitrogen in manure decreases as it composts, but composted manure is much safer to use. Manure that is well composted smells like fresh soil and does not have the characteristic ammonia smell of fresh manure. Well composted manure can be added liberally and offers the added benefit of improving the texture of the soil.

Commercial compost is sometimes little more than slightly decayed wood chips. Check to see that the raw material used to make the compost is mostly unrecognizable before buying it or better yet, make your own.

Warnings
Materials to Avoid in Your Compost Pile -

From Your Garden
• pesticide-treated plants or pesticide-treated grass clippings
• diseased or pest-infested plants
• poison ivy
• invasive weeds
• weeds with seeds
• large branches
• non-compostable materials such as sand or construction debris

From Your Kitchen/Home
• meat or fish scraps or bones
• cheese or dairy products
• fats, grease, or oil
• cat or dog feces; kitty litter
• colored or glossy paper
• sawdust made from pressure-treated plywood or lumber
• coal or charcoal ashes
• non-compostable materials such as plastic, metals, or glass

These materials often break down slowly, draw vermin to compost or risk the health of your garden plants.

Tips For Storing And Adding Materials
A convenient way to store kitchen scraps so you don't have to keep running out to the compost bin is to put them in a large zip-lock bag and keep them in the freezer. This way you avoid fruit fly problems in the summer and don't generate any odors in the kitchen.

When adding "greens," such as food waste or green garden trimmings to your compost pile, be sure to cover these food scraps with a layer of "browns" (finished compost or fall leaves) to deter possible odors, pests and flies. This will disguise the scent of the food and deter vermin. If you have the space, keep a supply of bagged fall leaves throughout the year to cover food scraps and balance out the "browns." Be sure to mix the brown thoroughly into the pile.

If you have more leaves than you can use for home composting, you can also use fall leaves as mulch in your garden. If you need to move your leaves off the grounds, check to see if and when the NYC Department of Sanitation is collecting fall leaves for composting and how to properly set out your leaves for DSNY collection. Otherwise, contact your local Compost Project Site to find out if there are community gardens near you that are accepting fall leaves for compost.

Cut up bulkier materials with hand pruners or a knife to pieces about 4 inches long, or use a mower with a bagging attachment or a chipper/shredder.

If you are primarily composting "browns," shredding items such as leaves into smaller pieces and keeping the pile moist will speed up the decomposition process.

Using Your Compost
Finished compost resembles dark, crumbly topsoil and should bear no resemblance to the original materials. Compost should have a pleasant, earthy smell to it.

Using "unfinished" or immature compost that contains food scraps can attract rodents or other vermin, so make sure your compost has fully decomposed before adding to your garden beds. Conduct this simple test to tell if your compost is ready to be used.

There are a range of ways to utilize your finished compost. You can mix it into your flower and vegetable beds, blend it with potting soil to revitalize indoor plants, or spread it on your lawn as a fertilizer. Follow these links for specific guidance on how best to work with compost given the different types of plantings you are looking to ammend.

using compost to amend your soil
using compost to grow plants
using compost on lawn or turf
using compost for trees & shrubs
using compost to create compost te

Credit For Content:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Understanding the Composting Process
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Create Your Own Compost Pile
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service: Composting
"Compost Science & Utilization"; Effect of Turning and Vessel Type on Compost Temperature and Composition in Backyard (Amateur) Composting; P. D. Alexander; June 2007
National Geographic
NYC.gov
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