The Compost Heap

The Compost Heap

Animal and vegetable refuse of any kind can simply be dug into the soil and left to rot but it is often more convenient to rot it down first in a compost heap. This has the additional merit that by the time the compost is ready for use many of the desirable chemicals will have already been liberated and be available to plants, and also that the compost itself will have been reduced to a crumbly brown material easily spread and not at all unsightly. Well-made compost, spread as a mulch on top of the soil, can look very nice.

Soft refuse will decay much more readily than woody refuse and so it is usually best to separate the latter and burn it. The soft refuse is then built into a heap not more than 3 ft (1 m) wide or high -so that air can penetrate it – but of any length. If the refuse is dry it is wise to soak it with water as the heap is built. Decay will be more rapid and a richer compost will result if the refuse is lightly sprinkled with one of the chemical accelerators sold for this purpose, or simply with Nitro-chalk.

After a month or so the whole heap should be turned with a fork, the outer portions of the old heap being transferred to the middle of the new heap and vice versa, and any dry portions wetted. Two or three months later the compost should be ready for use, but the real test is that it should be of a more or less even texture and colour throughout, all the ingredients having decayed so much that they have lost their individual appearance. Decay is more rapid in summer than in winter.

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