Location of the compost pile:
A compost pile should be located in a spot that is handy. If you put it off
somewhere in a remote area of your property you will not use it. The compost pile or
bin (which ever you prefer) should be on bare ground not a hard surface like concrete or
asphalt. It can be in the sun or in the shade. The size of the pile or bin will
depend on how much materials you can generate. Larger piles are better than smaller
piles but you need to decide what best fits your needs. Ideally the compost pile
should be around 4 feet x 4 feet and between 3 feet - 4 feet deep.
What to put in the compost pile:
The main ingredients of a compost pile consist of garden waste such as grass clippings,
fallen leaves, plant prunings, pulled weeds and kitchen scraps such as vegetable peelings,
fruit peelings. If you can get your hands on barn yard manures like chicken or horse
manures add those to the mix as well. Things you do not want in the pile
include - pet litter, meat scraps and coal ashes.
Combining greens and browns:
The recipe for a good compost pile consists of a mixture of the above ingredients.
The goal of the gardener is to keep the ratios of greens and browns at an ideal level to
speed up the composting process. The green ingredients come from young, moist materials
like weeds and grass clippings. Greens rot fast and if left to rot by themselves
will turn into a pile of smelly sludge. Browns are items such as clippings left over
from dead heading or fallen autumn leaves. Browns are slow to rot and provide
structure to the compost pile. The exact ratio of greens to brown can very rarely be
achieved in home composting since materials seem to vary from month to month. As a
general rule you will want a good combination of both greens and browns and as you work
the pile you begin to get the feel of the right mix.
Provide the right environment:
As we have said composting is a natural process. If you do nothing but pile up the
materials and walk away the pile will eventually turn to compost. The real reward to
composting comes from speeding the process up. You can literally turn scraps and
waste products into high quality compost in just a few months. Your goal is to get
the pile to heat up a process we composting junkies call "cooking". To get
your compost pile to cook you need to supply a few things to the billions of
microorganisms living in the pile. The three critical elements to successful
Moisture - the pile should stay constantly moist but never saturated. If
the pile becomes to wet it will give off a soured smell.
Air - The billions of tiny organisms living and feeding off or your
compost pile need a good air supply to continue multiplying. Air is supplied to the
pile by frequent turnings. To turn your pile invest in a good garden fork or manure fork.
You will need to turn the pile often - we suggest every 3 - 4 days. The more your turn the
pile the faster the composting process.
Nitrogen - Once again you have to keep those tiny microbes happy.
Nitrogen can be added to the pile in the form of barn yard manures, blood meal or even dry
dog foods (dog foods are full of different types of meals that are high in nitrogen)
Now you're cooking:
Once you get the ratio of ingredients right and provide the perfect environment the
pile will start to heat up or cook. The center of the pile will reach temperatures well
above 100F. It is always exciting to see your first pile let off steam as you turn it.
Now all you have to do is maintain the environment elements, water. air and
nitrogen and that pile of scraps will turn to black gold in a matter of weeks. Use the
compost through out your perennial gardens just as you would a store purchased amendment