Jumpstarting your compost pile
Once there's a hint of spring, I go out into my yard and rake up dead leaves, grass, and other debris that I can add to the compost pile. Then, I give it a good stir.
University of Illinois Extension Educator Sandra Mason says as the temperatures start to warm up, so does the compost pile.
"What you may find is that top layer you could actually sort of take off if you're anxious to get going. Once we start getting into the 40s or so, you'll find that top layer kind of stays cold," says Mason. "But then if you've actually had an active compost pile, as in it had a chance to do some decomposing last fall or when it was still warm, you find it warms up pretty quick on the inside. Those bacteria actually get going very quickly."
In fact, if you dig into the compost pile, you might even see steam rising out from the center of it. Stick your hand in there to feel for heat, or, if you're a little squeamish, use a thermometer. It's going good if the temperature gets to 140-degrees. At that point, it's time to turn the outside of the pile into the center so it doesn't get too hot and destroy the working bacteria.
This is also a good time to start adding material. Start your spring clean-up in the yard, then add the debris to the pile. Kitchen scraps such as vegetables, coffee grounds and tea bags are also good choices. Mason recommends shredded paper, too. Newspaper is excellent, but so is other paper.
"You know, junk mail. There's no reason why you can't put junk mail in there, I actually put my bills in there because I figure nobody's going to go into my compost pile to get information from me so it's, you know, a pretty good way to protect your information! But you need to shred them first," says Mason. "So, you know, paper. We don't have the leaves right now, but we certainly have lots of paper."
Moisten the paper a bit before adding it to the pile. The moisture helps the paper decompose faster.
Find more tips for giving the spring compost pile a boost
Here's how to use a compost accelerator
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