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Going green continues to get easier. When it comes to composting, however, there aren’t many short cuts — you need time and patience.

Prefabricated plastic compost bins claim to speed the process up, but J.T. McCarty, owner of Colonial Classics, prefers the old-fashioned method. He says the best way to start a pile is on three wooden palettes covered with straw. The heap is formed with layers — 6 to 10 inches of organic carbon matter (like leaves, grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable scraps), 1 to 2 inches of dry materials that provide nitrogen (like soil), and animal manure.

These layers should be repeated until the pile is roughly as tall as it is wide. The heap should be in a shaded area and doesn’t necessarily need to be covered if it is protected from wind and sun. Food waste that attracts pests, like meat or bones, should not be used. Once or twice a month, the compost pile should be mixed using a pitchfork. Six to eight weeks later, the mixture should resemble potting soil and can be used as mulch.

“When you layer it that way those components in the middle actually will generate enough heat to get up to 130 to 150 degrees in the middle,” says McCarty. “The heat is what causes the decomposition. Then you end up ultimately with compost.”

Pile Up

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