More Power Per Shovelful
If you have access to animal manure, consider adding it to your compost pile to add rich nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium. The animal generated organic matter that eventually will be added to your garden will improve the quality of the soil. However the amounts of each nutrient are highly variable depending on the animal’s diet, and the amount and type of bedding used.
Hot composting manure is best before applying it to your garden to kill parasites and reduce seeds from weeds. Composted manure is also easier to shovel and spread. Hot composting balances food, water and air in a compost pile to favor the growth of microorganisms that thrive in high temperatures.
A simple way to start is by building two bins out of pallets or boards. The first bin is for making the compost and the second is for the final stage of decomposition, also known as curing. Curing stabilizes the compost and can take several months. Make the bins big enough to hold a pile that could get 4-6 feet high and 3-5 feet wide.
Mix or layer raw animal manure with brown leaves, straw, spoiled hay or shredded paper in the first bin. If using manure that is mixed with bedding, it will have a good carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and you don’t need to add anything else. Thick layers of one material might not decompose quickly if you don’t have a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.
It’s important for the pile to have sufficient moisture. Wearing gloves, squeeze the organic matter firmly in your hand. You should be able to squeeze a few drops out of it. If you can’t, add water to the pile. If you can easily squeeze out a stream of water, mix in some dry organic matter. Turn the pile in the first bin with a pitchfork a few times during the first month as it heats up. The pile should heat to 130-140 degrees. When conditions are ideal, compost can heat up within one day.
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