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wooden compost bin, untreated cedar, with ample slots for aeration and small hatch at base for removal of finished compost Recycling kitchen and garden wastes is a simple way of keeping the garden healthy. Compost adds richness to soil, adds resiliency, adds aeration. It provides a warm, comfortable haven for any tender young transplant, nourishes it. Even indoor plants may benefit, by cutting ordinary potting soil with the stuff, or by using it to top-dress potted plants each spring. Spread it onto the soil outside, some 3" deep, and dig or till into the soil.

Composting is a simple process: microorganisms process dead material in a warm, moist environment. Oxygen may or may not be used, though oxygen-using aerobic composting is by far the faster process, and only it generates the heat needed to kill pathogens and weeds. However, beneficial microbes are also killed, and less nitrogen is actually left over in the end; not so with cold or anaerobic composting.

In ideal situations, a good aerobic pile produces good compost in two to four weeks. In colder climes, longer times will be needed. Relax, wait patiently. Use only finished compost: pathogens should be killed, weed seeds should be dead, and compost should add to, not deplete nitrogen in your soil.

Done properly, almost no smell results. The dead debris simmers at 158F/70C, quietly breaking down, summer and winter. The heat generated by aerobic composting kills all pathogens and most weed seeds. Though cold piles eventually produce good compost, weeds may actually thrive on being included. Don't compost weeds, if the pile doesn't stew. ONLY USE FINISHED COMPOST!

Though well-made 'hot' compost won't harbour disease, and is useful in all parts of the garden, keep it away from seeds and the youngest of cuttings. Besides possible surviving nasties, the nutrient balance may not ideal. However, if you are sure of your wonderfully textured, aerobically composted stuff, then finely screen it, and add it to your seed-starting mixture. Alteratively, bake it at 180F/85C for 30 minutes, then screen it.

Garbage bin composterManufactured rotating compost drum

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