An Artful Creation
My first run-in with a compost bin was moving into a new home and finding a strange-looking five-sided wood box filled with decomposed yard waste, a nest of newborn mice, and more crawling things than I'd seen in my life! Some gardeners are still using those old-fashioned techniques, while others have made minimal investments in rodent-proof compost bins and compost tumblers, and have learned the art of speeding up decomposition.
Impatience Is a Virtue
At one time, organic matter was just thrown in a heap, and then nature took charge. Then gardeners realized that the balance between nitrogen-enriched waste (fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and such) and carbon-enriched waste (bark, twigs, hay, etc.) was important to the composting process. Compost bins were layered with 6 inches of carbon and 2 inches of nitrogen, and organic matter was turned every 6 to 8 weeks. A new proven method for composting is to turn compost by hand or in a compost tumbler weekly. Many gardeners stir the pot with each addition.
You're Getting Hot
Hot (active) compost piles have a quick turnaround. With a healthy balance of nitrogen, carbon, water, hungry microorganisms, an insulated garden compost bin, proper turning, and exposure to sun, temperatures of 110 to 140 degrees heat up the mix so that it is ready for use in a couple of months. When temperatures reach below 90 degrees or above 165 degrees, the decomposition process slows down.
A worm composter uses food scraps to produce rich, dark compost that smells like soil. Red worms and microorganisms eat their way through waste; excrements from the worms are loaded with beneficial nutrients. Red worms need controlled temperature of 55 to 77 degrees, moisture (red worms breathe through their skin and need moist skin), aeration to provide oxygen needed to sustain life, and proper pH, which can be controlled by adding limestone or eggshells to correct the compost's acidity.