Using the CGSC Compost Bins
The CGSC compost committee encourages you to use and help maintain our CGSC compost bins. Composting at the gardens helps garden members enrich the soil in their plots, retain water, and suppress plant disease and pests. Our compost helps to promote the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down the organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient filled material.
- Cut off the root ball of the plant, this can stay in your plot (and helps the soil).
- Cut the thick parts of the plant into 1-2 inch sections. Leaves can go in the bin as is.
- If you cannot cut up your plants due to time and/or energy, bag your plants and take them home for disposal.
What NOT to Put in Compost Bins
- Dog or cat poop
- Tea and coffee bags- tea and coffee can definitely go in, but let’s leave the bags out
- Citrus and onions- the natural chemicals and acidity in both can kill worms and other microorganisms
- Fish and meat scraps
- Glossy and coated paper
- Sticky labels found on fruits and veggies
- Coal fire ash
- Sawdust from treated wood
- Large branches
- Synthetic fertilizer
A properly made compost pile heats up enough (about 160 F) to kill weed seeds, insect eggs, and most disease-causing organisms. If the pile is to attain this temperature, there must be a balance between nitrogen and carbon as well as adequate moisture, oxygen, and mass. A pile measuring 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet is about the minimum size for effective composting.
Begin by gathering garden refuse, dried leaves, lawn clippings, and organic kitchen scraps, such as fruit and vegetable wastes, coffee grounds, and eggshells. Do not add meat, bones or fat, since they take too long to decompose and may attract flies and rodents. Cut the materials as finely as possible. Small particles have a greater surface area exposed to moisture, air, and soil bacteria.
In building the pile, remember to balance high-nitrogen green matter (green plant refuse, kitchen scraps, manure, and nitrogen fertilizers) with material high in carbon (yellow or dried plant matter, such as dead leaves, untreated wood sawdust, and straw). Be sure to moisten all dried materials when adding them.
Dried materials alone, such as all dead leaves, will not heat up because there is not enough nitrogen. If the pile doesn’t have enough green matter, add a few handfuls of a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to maintain the balance.
If you don’t have manure to add to the pile, sprinkle some garden soil or aged compost on each layer to provide the microorganisms necessary for the composting.
If you turn the pile every day, the compost will be ready in as little as two weeks. Or you can use a slower method that requires less turning. Place an iron pipe or a crowbar in the pile to serve as a thermometer. After a week, the pipe will be too hot to hold. It will begin to cool down after a few weeks. Turn the compost pile as soon as you notice that the temperature is dropping. The pile has cooled down because it is no longer receiving enough oxygen. Turning it allows air to reach all parts of the pile, which will cause it to heat up again. The pile will probably need to be watered as you turn it.
You will know the compost is ready when it has decomposed into a uniform, dark, crumbly material.
Some common composting problems and their solutions can be found below.
The compost pile doesn’t heat up
- The pile may be too small. Rebuild it, adding material to make it larger.
- The pile may be too dry. Rebuild it, watering as you go. Because it’s difficult to wet the pile uniformly by top watering, it is important to moisten dry materials when you add them.
- The pile may have too much dried material and too little nitrogen. Turn it and add some high-nitrogen fertilizer or leafy green organic matter.
The compost pile smells bad
- If it smells like ammonia, it contains too much nitrogen. Layer in some straw, leaves, or sawdust.
- If it smells like rotten eggs, it is too wet. Turn it and add some dry material.
The compost pile attracts pests
- If the pile attracts insects, rodents or dogs, there may be some meat or manure from a meat-eating animal in the pile. Remove the material or bury it deep within the pile.
- If the pile attracts insects, take measures to warm it up, such as shredding the material as finely as possible, adding sufficient nitrogen, and turning the pile often. Insects cannot tolerate the heat of a working compost pile, and after it cools, it is too decomposed to be of interest to them.