Why Building a Compost Pile

Compost is an excellent way to improve soil or provide potting material for container gardening. Compost is porous and absorbent, two qualities necessary for growing healthy plants. Additionally, you can create your own compost from materials that you probably already have on hand, or are readily available to you.

Follow our guidelines to create a compost pile for your container garden or landscaping project.

For building a compost pile You will need the following.

1. Carbon-rich “brown” materials. Good examples are fall leaves, straw, dead flowers from your garden or shredded newspaper.

2. Nitrogen-rich “green” materials. Good examples are grass clippings, kitchen waste (vegetable peelings and fruit rinds, coffee grounds – never meat scraps), or barnyard animal manure (its color is usually brown, but manure is full of nitrogen like other “green” stuff).

3. A shovel full or two of garden soil.

4. A site that’s at least 3 feet long by 3 feet wide.
Start by spreading a layer several inches thick of coarse, dry brown stuff, like straw or leaves, in your pile or compost bin. Top that with several inches of green stuff. Add a thin layer of soil. Add a layer of brown stuff. Moisten the three layers.

Continue layering green stuff and brown stuff with a little soil mixed in until the pile is 3 feet high. Your pile should have a ratio of three parts brown to one part green. It may take time before you have enough material to build the pile to three feet high. Just keep adding to the pile until it gets to at least 3 feet high.

compost pile

compost pile

Every couple weeks, use a garden fork or shovel to turn the pile, moving the stuff at the center of the pile to the outside and working the stuff on the outside to the center of the pile. Keep your pile moist, but not soggy. When you turn the pile, steam may rise from it. This shows the pile is heating up from the materials decomposing.

If you turn the pile every couple weeks and make sure it is moist, you will begin to see earthworms throughout the pile. The center of the compost pile will turn into a black, sweet-smelling soil. When you have enough finished compost in your compost pile to use in your container or garden, simply shovel out the finished compost. You can start your next pile with any material that wasn’t composted before. If you follow our tips for building your compost bin, you can easily relocate the bin to a new site, or continue composting in the current site.

You don’t need a compost bin to make compost. You simply need a pile that is at least 3 by 3 by 3 feet. A pile this size will have enough mass to decompose without a bin. Lots of gardeners purchases or builds compost bins because they keep the pile neat. Some are designed to make turning the compost easier or protect it from soaking rains. Building your own compost bin is inexpensive and fairly simple.

How to Build your own bin

You will need the following.

1. Chicken wire 36 to 48 inch tall.

2. 4-6 simple wooden stakes.

3. Wire cutters.

4. Wire or string to attach stakes to chicken wire.

How to do it?

Cut your chicken wire to a length that will wrap around your compost space. If you want a 3? x 3? compost area, you will need 12? of chicken wire cut (4 sides x 3? each side). Lay it flat and space your stakes evenly across the length of the wire. Attach the stakes using wire (preferably since it won?t rot), leaving 3-4 inches of stake extending past the bottom edge of wire.

Locate the area in which you want to set up your compost bin. Make sure the area has access to water, since you will need to water your compost pile, especially in dry weather. Press the stakes into the ground, forming the wire into a square or circle shape. You can tie the two ends together using wire. Now you are ready to start building your organic materials for your compost pile!

Composting is easy, practical, and good for the environment and your plants. It is an important component in organic gardening and re-purposes valuable nutrients back into the earth. Start composting to have a valuable supply of organic material for your organic gardening or container gardening projects.

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