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5. Water pile, and continue process of laying. Do not trample on heap as if it is matted down, aeration will be impeded.
Within a few days heap will begin to heat up and start to shrink in size. The heap is turned with a pitchfork 2 - 3 weeks after being made, and again at about 5 weeks of age. Care is taken during turning to place outer parts of heap on inside so that they can decay fully.
Do not turn heap too frequently, as it needs to build up heat for decaying process. Keep pile moist, but not wet, and let nature take its course. The compost will be finished after about 3 months.
When To Apply Compost:
The main influence on timing, rate and method of applying compost is its condition, age, and degree to which composting process is complete. Fully mature compost resembles - indeed, it is - supersoil, a light, rich loam. If half completed so it still retains some fibrous material, it will continue to decompose and generate heat. Such compost should be permitted to finish composting. Never place it near growing plants. However, if you have unfinished compost in fall of year, it is safe to apply it. It will finish up in soil and be ready to supply growth nutrients to first spring plantings.
The preferred time to apply fully matured compost is a month or so before planting - or, if you are a successive cropper, planting two or more crops to same parcel of land each session, just before planting. The closer to planting time it goes on, finer it should be shredded or chopped, and more thoroughly it should be hoed or tilled into your soil.
If compost is ready in fall but not intended for use until spring, it should be kept covered and stored in a protected place. If it is kept for a long period of time during summer, finished compost should be watered from time to time.
How To Apply:
For general application, soil should be stirred or turned thoroughly. Then compost is added to top four inches of soil. For flower and vegetable gardening, it is best to pan compost through a 1/2 inch sieve. Course material remaining may then be put into another compost heap.
To avoid disturbing roots of established plants, compost should be mixed with topsoil aand applied as mulch. This is often termed "side dressing". It serves a double purpose, providing plant food that will gradually work itself down to growing crop, and as a mulch giving protection from extremes of temperature, hard rains and growth of weeds.
For best results, compost should be applied liberally, from 1 - 3 inches per year. There is no danger of burning due to overuse, as happens with artificial fertilizers. Apply compost either once or twice a year.
Layered Garden or "Lasagna" Garden
For those of you who are short on garden space, you might want to try one of two methods pictured on right. The first picture allows for more intensive gardening (more plants for area available).
See pictures at http://www.growitgold.com/resources/soil.shtml 1. Begin by digging a pit of appropriate size
2. Line bottom with wire mesh if rodents are a problem in your area The core or bottom of your compost pile garden is made up of twigs, small branches, and other coarse materials Next comes twigs, finely shredded branches, sawdust, etc
3. On top of this, place garden materials such as weeds, lawn clippings, fruit and vegetable peelings from kitchen, coffee grounds, shredded leaves. It's best to shred leaves, as too many leaves placed in whole can pack down and prevent natural aeration and decomposition (it might start to stink)
4. Follow with a layer of partially finished compost.
5. Top with fully finished compost mixed with quality topsoil
For more gardening information, please visit http://www.growitgold.com/resourceindex.shtml
This article has been brought to you by: GROWIT GOLD Garden & Landscape design software. See slideshow – http://www.growitgold.com
A national and internation freelance writer since 1985, Sara has myriad articles and special editions to her name. Main interests include science & technology, and organic gardening.