Here are a few answers to some frequently asked questions about compost.
How do I choose (fresh, aged, contents)?
If you need mulch for landscaping, a manure pile with mostly bedding is a good choice. For improving garden soil, a material with little or no bedding is usually better.
Different beddings will compost at different rates – straw breaks down quicker and cedar shavings take a very long time. For an all-purpose compost that will be ready to use more quickly, a manure to bedding ratio of 1:1 or higher (1:0, 20:1, 3:1, etc.) is more desirable.
How much do I need?
Calculate volume needed (depth x area) then convert to cubic yards (27 cubic feet in one cubic yard). Plan for the number of truck loads required for target volume.
Note: most pickups can only handle ½-1 yard at a time. If you are getting a lot of material, chose a supplier with a loader or plan to spend a lot of time with your shovel loading your truck.
What is the difference between “Fresh” and Aged”?
Aged material may be closer to ‘finished compost’ than newer material, though it may take a little green material to get your compost pile cooking. Fresh material may begin to compost more quickly but it may have an “aroma” until it cooks a bit. The only way to determine if a pile is composted properly is to have the pile tested (usually by a soil lab).
Most if not all suppliers will not have had their piles tested so plan on composting it a bit more at your home before use.
Is it safe for my garden?
Fresh manure in the garden carries a small risk that pathogens which cause disease may contaminate garden vegetables. To prevent illness use only composted/aged manure on food gardens. Do not use cat, dog or pig manure in gardens or compost piles, because some of the parasites which can be found in these manures may survive and remain infectious for people.
How do I compost?
Composting is easy and fun and will help you grow a strong, beautiful garden. Even the first-time composter can make quality compost.
Use this guide produced by Metro to help you get started. It’s easy to make your own compost!