Having access to an endless supply of well-aged organic compost is any gardener’s dream come true. Organic compost adds substance and texture while providing nutrition and garden-friendly micro-organisms to the soil. When used to enhance the garden or growing medium of plants, shrubs and trees, organic compost produces bigger and healthier crops than soil not enhanced: all without the use of noxious chemical or toxins that could be harmful to pets and people. You can go online or visit your local lumberyard to find construction plans for just about any size and type of composting bin. One of the easiest methods is to sink 4” x 4” posts in the ground and make three sides out of 2” x 4” boards spaced 2” apart to allow for ventilation. The 2” x 4”s are strong enough not to bend outward as you fill the bin. The front of the bin is left open to allow easy access for filling and unloading the bin. Because the bin can get a little “ripe” with odor from manure and other decomposing organic materials, it is wise to place it away from the patio and downwind from areas where the yard is used for social purposes. Experienced gardeners advise that once the bin is full, you will want to turn the bin every couple of weeks, while keeping the materials moist. While composting can seem like a lot of work, the effort is more than repaid in knowing that you are recycling all your garden and lawn waste, produce trimmings, kitchen, and paper waste while creating your unique blend of “garden magic.” Composting Is A Family Affair Encourage everyone in the family to be eco-friendly and recycle everything they can. Newspapers, coffee grounds, apple cores, and potato peels are all fodder for the bin. Add grass clippings, shrub trimmings and dried leaves. Encourage children to put fruit peels and cores in the compost jar, not the garbage can. Banana peels are especially high in potassium, a great addition to any compost mixture. Layer Compost Materials For Fastest Decomposition Experience gardeners that make their garden compost suggest that you layer green and brown materials, such as lawn clippings and manure, green trimmings with sand or dried leaves. It is best to keep layers to a maximum of six inches thick to facilitate easy mixing of materials. If you have two feet of grass on top of kitchen waste, it is pretty hard to mix them together well. If you live in a rural area, ask a neighbor for a load of herbivore manure to add to your compost bin. He or she will probably be happy for you to haul it away. Cow, goat, horse, sheep or lama or any combination can be used. Once the bin is full, cover with brown material such as topsoil, dry leaves or a layer of untreated wood sawdust. Place a small sprinkler on top of your composting pile and allow the water to gently penetrate the pile for approximately two hours a day during the summer months. Keeping the composting material wet causes the material to heat up which in turns speeds up the composting action. Savvy gardeners establish multiple composting bins, each in a different stage of decomposition. As the materials break down the pile in the bin will shrink. Turn it as often as you can or you can just leave it alone, watering it when you remember. It isn’t that complicated. Remember that materials that are at the center of the compost heap will break down faster than that which is around the outer edges, that is why it is important to stir things up once in a while. A three tonged pitchfork and a bit of muscle are the best tools for turning the bin. When compost is dark and mealy, it is well-aged and ready to be applied to the garden.