Since you do not want to add chemical fertilizers to your garden or crops, you have decided to make your own compost pile. A majority of the what you will use to create it will be dead, organic materials that provide an important part of the decomposition process: carbon. Below is an explanation of why this is vital to your composting success, as well as what to use.

The Importance Of Keeping Your Carbon To Nitrogen Ratio At 20:1

Keeping your compost’s carbon to nitrogen ratio balanced to where there are 20 parts of carbon to 1 part nitrogen is important for a couple of reasons. You need to have a higher carbon content than nitrogen, since this provides energy food for the bacteria and other organisms that break down the compost heap, much as carbohydrates provide it for you.

The nitrogen, on the other hand, acts like meat for humans. It provides the microorganisms protein to build their structures and keep healthy.

When the proper ratio is maintained, they are provided with enough nutrients to do their job of decomposing the organic materials you put in the pile, releasing the potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen essential for fertilizing your garden’s plants.

However, if the carbon level is too high, the little soil munchers go crazy and start eating too much nitrogen. This robs the soil of the nutrient that the plants need. If there is not enough carbon, they do not have enough fuel to quickly and efficiently make your compost.

Carbon-Rich Materials To Add To Your Compost

Now that you know why you need so much carbon in your compost heap, its time to learn what you should use to get it in there.

Just about anything you cut or trim outdoors can be placed in the pile, such as dry leaves, straw, and weeds you pull up from your garden.

Before putting weeds in the compost, however, make sure they have not gone to seed. They will either sprout and grow in the pile or lie dormant until you put them on your garden. This will become a headache later as they spread in the nutrient-rich soil you created and threaten to choke out your vegetables.

Never use any plants containing irritants, such as poison ivy, oak, or sumac. The oils will spread throughout the compost and can remain for months. When it is time to work with the compost and spread it, touching it could then give you or someone else a terrible rash.

Wood ash provides a highly dense source of carbon. If you have a fire pit that burns wood, save some of the ashes and dust the surface of the pile with them. Do not use more than a light sprinkling, however, since the carbon content could throw off the carbon to nitrogen ratio.

Most household items provide nitrogen, such as egg shells, coffee grounds, and vegetable peelings. However, there are a few things laying around your house that are a source of carbon.

For example, your old newspapers and magazine can be used, as long as they do not contain heavily colored pages or high gloss finishes. These would release chemicals into the soil that could harm your vegetable plants.

Break down cardboard boxes and put them in the pile. Tear them into smaller pieces and cover them with layers of the existing soil to speed up their decomposition process.

After decomposition has taken place, you can mix your compost into the soil using a variety of methods, from a hand trowel for a small flowerpot vegetable garden to a compost turner for large fields of corn. If you are interested in buying a compost turner but are not sure which one is right for your needs, ask your farm equipment supplier and go to sites about them.