You may also want to attend a class on composting this Wednesday, June 17 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County, located at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview. This class is being taught by Master Gardener Bob Bayer. There is no cost to attend but space is limited to 40 participants. To register, please call our office at 850-689-5850.
Many materials can be used to produce compost. Grass clippings, leaves, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable and fruit clippings and chopped brush are a few materials suitable for composting. Cheese, meat scraps, fats or bones should be avoided because of potential of attracting pests like flies and rodents. Also, these materials are slower to decompose and may create an odor problem.
The size of a compost bin may vary but you will need to construct an enclosure at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet. It can be made from almost anything: wire, wooden pallets, concrete blocks, etc. One side of the bin should be either open or removable for ease of adding and removing materials.
The simplest compost bin that I use is a wire hoop made from welded fence wire. The piece of fence wire should be long enough to make a 3-foot diameter hoop. This hoop bin is sturdy enough to stand upright on its own with no additional support.
Beneficial bacteria and fungi use nitrogen in the process of breaking down organic materials. To provide the nitrogen you can use ½ cup ammonium nitrate per bushel of organic material added to the compost pile. One suggestion is to alternate eight to twelve inches of organic matter, two inches of topsoil and one cup of any complete fertilizer (per layer) until the container is full. Then add enough water to get the material to the consistency of a wet sponge.
Microorganisms in your compost pile must have air to live. Frequently turning the compost pile with a shovel or pitchfork will benefit the bacteria and fungi, resulting in faster decomposition of the organic materials. Using the wire hoop mentioned makes turning the pile easy. Simply pick up the wire hoop and set it to the side of your pile of compost. Next, use a pitchfork or shovel to place the compost materials back into the wire hoop in its new location. Chopped or shredded material will compost more quickly.
For additional information on composting, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit http://compost.ifas.ufl.edu.