NDSU Extension - Williams County


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June 12, 2015

Summer Composting Practices

North Dakota soil was one of the main reasons early settlers were so attracted to this area. Keeping the nutrient levels in your garden at a proper rate can sometimes be a struggle. There is one simple way that this can be done, composting. Most people when they hear the words compost pile, they think of the smell that sometimes can come with it. But if the pile is taken care of properly, smell should not be an issue.

Composting is the gradual decomposition of organic matter such as, coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable shavings, grass clippings and shredded leaves. There are two types of composting systems, but with our short summer season the most used one in North Dakota is the Hot System. The height of the compost pile should not exceed 6 feet in height, and the maximum size of the organic matter pieces should be 6-9 inches long. If bins are constructed using the dimensions of 5x5x6 feet will yield 150 cubic feet of compost. This amount of compost will take 4-6 weeks to decompose and will cover a 500 square feet spaces at a depth of two inches. This size of a compost bin is divided into 3 parts. Bin 1- Raw material bin, this is where you put the kitchen items such as coffee grounds, egg shells and vegetable shavings. Also putting grass clippings, leaf shreds and refuse from the vegetable or flower garden. Turn at least once a week. Bin 2- This bin with be filled with composted material which is taken from the bottom of bin one. This bin needs to be turned every three to four days, until the material is humus. Humus is dark, friable, odorless product, which is similar to the organic matter found in soil. Bin 3- is compost of compost or humus, which is ready for use.

If bad smells are coming from the compost pile, it generally means that there is more moisture at the bottom of the pile simply turning over the pile will take care of that problem. There are two alternatives of the hot production system, one involves a plastic trash bag where the bag is rolled over every other day. The other alternative is commercially available compost bins, both alternatives will yield a compost product in two to three weeks. One thing to keep in mind while having a composting bins in your yard is to keep it away from buildings, while decomposing the internal temperature can reach 120-160 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are many benefits of compost such as; keeping soil temperatures cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, utilizing rainfall or irrigation water and adding biological activity to the soil. If you want to see the whole article, Composting Practices written by Ronald C. Smith visit the following website http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/hortcrop/h885.pdf.


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