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I have tried multiple approaches to composting and my favorite option personally is to just work the pile on the ground. This seems to work best for me and allows a workout that works for my back. The compost bins and tumblers I have tried are not as convenient for me because they require daily turning and attention which is backbreaking and does not always happen. With my open compost pile on the other hand I am able to turn things with a shovel and pitch fork when it is convenient and I have time for it. if I do it right it is actually a bit of a work out but does not hurt my back like trying to turn a big round tumbler.

The trick behind composting is to research it thoroughly and then make sure you have a good mix of needed ingredients. Generally speaking this means you need Green material, Brown material, Activator and Water. Each of these will play a part in breaking down the waste into dirt and they do need to be balanced. I’ve found that as long as my pile is not too wet or too full of green material it will never smell bad.

Turning the compost is also important to make sure it gets air and the elements get mixed and chopped as needed. I can give some basic insights to what I have learned about composting here.

Green compost material examples:

• Fruit peels and rotten fruit

• Aquarium water, algae and plants from freshwater aquariums

• Chicken manure

• Small amounts of grass clippings that have not had weed killer in the past 3 weeks

• Plants, flowers, weeds (Don’t use weeds that have gone to seed)

• Horse or Cow Manure (horse has more nitrogen but also more seeds of weeds)

• Rabbit or hamster manure

• Egg shells

• Carrot shavings and other vegetable matter

Brown materials:

• Leaves and corn stocks or similar material

• Uncolored newspaper

• Cardboard (shredded)

• Paper egg cartons

• Dried vines, potato plants, tomato plants, old legume plants

• Small branches and twigs

Activators are typically your manures and existing compost. I often use my compost from previous years and composting efforts but I have also used Steer manure purchased from a local store for a low price, often around $1. Dog food and cat food are also good activators to use when starting your compost pile for your own personal garden. Chicken manure is often some of the best activator and compost material you can get.

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