3 Step Composting Process at Wagon Hill Garden

A message from Michael Michaud, CGFA’s Composting Expert…

Composting is a process that is natural and works with or without any help from us. However, with just a small amount of assistance in the form of management and  a little hard work we are able to better utilize the benefits of this process more quickly and more frequently  than nature  usually provides.

We’re an organic garden.  Most commercial fertilizers should NOT be used in an organic garden; however, there are some organic fertilizers with the seal OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) that can be used.

Natural materials to use as a soil additive fall into two basic groups. One is animal, (brown manure), and two is plant (green manure) both are acceptable for use at the Wagon Hill Garden. Our compost program is exclusively plant material.  This is why we ask that NO meat, poultry, or fish products or by-products (cooked or raw) be added to the compost piles.  NO DOG or CAT feces are allowed due to possible parasite infestation…

The garden rules ask that you DO NOT put diseased plants or weeds into the compost pile. This is an attempt to prevent any unnecessary spread of plant diseases and/ or weeds to other garden spaces.  Your cooperation is much appreciated.

Our composting program uses a three step process:

STEP 1 GREEN (raw waste): We start with green waste from the garden (tomato plants, leaves, and other plants) basically anything that grows in a garden. Chop it, shred it, tear it up, or throw it into the compost pile whole. This gets us started on step one. Next we add a small amount of dirt and water repeating this in layers until we have used up all of the green waste that we have. Next cover the pile with hay or straw to insulate.  (The compost pile needs heat to work.) Turn to aerate the pile about once a week then cover again with hay or straw.

STEP 2 BROWN (mulch): The green pile has been turned once or twice for aeration and now has been moved to the brown pile, more dirt and water is added, we can also add wood chips for additional fiber, then cover with hay or straw to insulate. During this stage of composting, IF we have done things correctly, we should be seeing various bugs and especially worms – the more, the better. DO NOT KILL THEM. They really help the process and the bugs usually disappear at or before step 3.

STEP 3 BLACK GOLD (COMPOST): This is what we have been looking for, our black-gold, a rich soil additive that you can take to your garden. Add 1 or 2 inches to the garden then work it into the soil about 1 OR 2 inches deep. However, it is not necessary for you to work the compost in since you can just put it on the topsoil and plant your seeds or transplants in the compost (your choice). Everything will eventually sink into the topsoil when it rains or you water the garden. The same is true with any other amendments indicated by your soils’ PH test. Having done this, you have given your garden its best chance for a clean healthy growth.  Compost and the necessary amendments provide your garden a full assortment of nutrients essential for healthy and strong plants.  These products should always be OMRI APPROVED, look for the OMRI seal on the package. We appreciate any help you can give and please enjoy your gardening experience.

For more information about composting check out this Composting and Cover Cropping article from the UNH Cooperative Extension.