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How to Start Composting

Starting a compost pile is as easy a tossing your leaf and grass clippings in a pile and letting it rot for the growing season. But before I go into detail on how easy it to start composting your garden wastes, lets go over what actually is composting.


What is Composting

Composting is any organic matter that has decomposed and is being used as organic fertilizer and soil amendments. At the basic level, composting requires require green (live, press cut plants debris) and brown ( dying, plant waste) that is mixed together. Over time, the compost pile will heat up and start to break down. As it breaks down the pile will grow warm and may even steam in cold weather. Image Source: Flickr

This may sound simple, but if it isn’t done properly, you may not have a healthy compost pile or it takes forever to break down to what you see in the picture.

How to Start a Compost Pile

Starting a compost pile is the easy part, the hard part is maintaining your compost pile once it starts cooking. To get it to start cooking, you will need to do a few things. Below are some directions to follow to get your own compost pile started.

1. The first thing you need to do is to pick the right spot for your pile. It shouldn’t be to close to your house, but it shouldn’t be so far away, you end up throwing your food scraps away instead of taking them out to the pile. The spot should be a sunny location with at least 4 or more hours of sun.

2. Even though just a pile of rotting pile of garden waste will work, wild animals can get into your pile and disturb the decomposing process. In the future, I will write an article about the different compost makers. But if you are on a budget or just wanting to see if composting is for you, then you can make a temporary one or try a few DIY ones on the web (I will write up one that I created a few years ago). But the easiest one you can do is take chicken wire/welded wire and create a small rectangle (4ft by 5ft or larger) cage using green fence posts or taking an old rubber trash can (cleaned and bleached) and drill small holes all over it so the pile can breath.

3. Once you have the location and composter sorted out, you need to start the pile. Some experts and others say you need to add small sticks to the bottom of the pile. But I find these sticks can get in the way when harvesting the freshly made compost. For me I find using shredding cardboard and pine needles. Both take a lot longer to break down but also slightly raising the compost off the ground.

4. Add a small layer of  greens including grass and fruit/vegetable scraps. Then add a pile of brown organic matter. This can be leaves, pine needles, old bark mulch, and dried/died grass/sod scraps. This should be twice the size of your green layer.

5. To get your pile started, you can add a layer of high quality commercial compost or soil from your garden. You can even get compost starter from the feed store. Your starting pile should be much bigger than 3 x 3 section in your compost pile. If your pile is to large it will take a lot longer to start composting.

6. Once you get the pile built, you will need to water the compost pile. But do not over water, it should be enough to moisten the pile.

How to Maintain Your Compost Pile

Maintaining your compost pile isn’t simple as you might think, but its easy to maintain once you know how to take care of it.

If you do your best to keep the 2-to-1 ration of browns to greens, water often, and turn your compost at least twice a week your compost pile will have compost ready to use in six to eight months, or maybe a few months longer. Each compost pile cook at different rates.

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