How to Kickstart Your Compost Heap

4 steps to get your composting and gardening into gear

Do you have a green thumb? Like getting your hands dirty in your garden? If so, then you’ve probably discovered in your gardening research that an organic compost pile is one of the most effective tools you can use to enrich your soil. The rich humus you create with your compost pile can provide many nutrients to your plants and vegetables. Once you’ve got your compost pile up and running, there are some easy to follow tips to find a way to kick start your compost heap, and take it to the next level of fertility.

Step 1: Mow your compost

You know the benefits from aerating your compost pile, but have you considered doing a “drive by mowing?” As your organic compost pile grows, it can prove to be beneficial to breaking up the new materials you’ve already added. Start by removing what could be large chunks of wood or branches that might damage a mower. Then merely run your lawn mower over the remaining pile. What you’ll be left with are all the amazing bits broken down to smaller pieces. This will help speed up the decomposition. Maintaining or starting a compost pile in an area with plenty of sunlight will increase its internal heat and help keep the decomposition process going.

Step 2: Put some worms to work in the compost

The Savvy Gardener, a Kansas City-based gardening website and newsletter, suggests one great way to kick start your organic compost pile is to add red worms to the mix. Red worms work best with food scraps. Introducing a batch of red worms to your compost pile will result in the composting worms devouring all the food scraps and then digesting them into your useable and fertile compost.

If you’re near horse stables, you can find red worms in manure piles. You can also find reputable online dealers that stock red worms for purchase. A mini worm compost heap can also work in a garage or basement during the cold winter months. Soil and food scraps are all the worms will need, and come the spring, you’ll have fresh organic compost for your garden.

Step 3: Send your coffee grinds back to the earth

One of the key ingredients for starting a compost pile is using the same thing with which you start your day: coffee. These fresh grinds are full of enriching nutrients that pack a powerful punch aiding in the compost process. If you aren’t much of a coffee drinker yourself, take a stroll over to your neighborhood java house and ask for their grinds. They might even already have a recycling program set up with other gardeners. Remember that you don’t have to separate your filters from the grinds. Pretty much any leftovers from a coffee house can be dumped into your organic compost pile.

Step 4: Try a compost activator or accelerator

When you really want to speed up the decomposition process of your compost pile, consider introducing a compost activator or accelerator to get things moving. Full of enzymes and helpful bacteria, compost activators and accelerators help raise the temperature of your pile, actively break down its components and are said to even help reduce odor associated with decomposition. Compost activators and accelerators are available from Gaiam and other garden supply retailers. Be sure to read the product's indications before purchasing to ensure it's appropriate for the type of compost pile you have.

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