What is compost?
Compost is made by piling layers of organic material - along with the occasional very thin layer of soil - into some sort of container, or even just a loose pile, keeping it moistened with a hose (or with rainfall), and allowing it all to decompose.
The composting process
The breakdown into compost occurs pretty quickly on the inside of the pile – where the temperature can get as high as 70 degrees Celsius. Eventually, the entire pile will break down if it sits long enough, and composters who aren’t in a hurry are perfectly happy to let their pile sit. There are three basic steps to take when composting, which you can read more about on Gardening Blogs.
How to fasten the composting process
Those who want to fasten the process turn their piles with a garden fork or turn the entire container if it’s a composting bin on a swivel. This process transfers the stuff on the outside to the inside, thereby giving everything in the pile a turn at the “hot spot.” This process also aerates the pile, which further stimulates decomposition. The finished product can take as little as 18 days or up to a few months of warm weather. The material is a dark, moist cross between soil and fine mulch that has broken down so thoroughly that it’s hard to recognise the original ingredients
The compost recipe
The basic compost “recipe” consists of dry brown materials that are rich in carbon, like twigs, bark, straw, and other dead plant stems that both provide bulk and break down slowly; and moist, softer materials that are high in nitrogen, such as green plant debris, non-animal kitchen scraps (though eggshells are really good to use), and farm animal manure, all of which break down faster and speed up the decomposition of the other substances.
What you’re shooting for is just the right balance of carbon and nitrogen. The great Barbara Damrosch describes a good compost pile as “…a lasagna in which the dry brown ingredients are the noodle layers and the moist green ones the filling.” If your pile has too much “noodle”, and isn’t getting hot enough, add things like seaweed, blood meal, fish emulsion, or grass clippings (as long as they don’t contain any weed killing chemicals). Occasionally adding a little soil introduces helpful microorganisms into the mix, and is easily accomplished whenever you toss something into the pile that still has soil on its roots.You can find out more about Stacey Panozzo and Botanical Bazaar, the annual gardening event on the Gold Coast, follow them on Facebook.