Choose A Proper LocationWhen starting a compost pile, take into account the location of the pile. You want to locate it as close to the vegetable garden as possible in an area that is level and drains well. This will make transporting the finished compost to the vegetable garden much easier and allow for good drainage. The compost pile will not heat up properly if it's too damp. The area should also be convenient for adding new materials to the pile. Try to place the compost pile near a water supply so that you can moisten the pile on those hot, dry days. Make sure to locate the pile in an area that is not unsightly for you or your neighbors. You don't want the compost pile to be an ugly eyesore in your backyard.
Allow For HeatAs mentioned above, you must have proper heat for the compost pile to decompose into usable compost. If the compost pile lacks heat it will not decompose leaving you with just a pile of debris. You can improve heat and decomposition by building your compost pile on top of a screen-covered wooden pallet. You can also dig out a small pit and lay wood or metal supports across it to hold a screen. Build your pile on top of the screen. This allows for good circulation, improved drainage and a steaming hot compost pile.
Adding The IngredientsPlace twigs, branches and limbs at the bottom of the pile. This will also increase air flow and aid decomposition. The next layer should consist of equal parts of green and brown materials. Green materials are fruit wastes, untreated grass clippings, seaweed or kelp, vegetable peelings and coffee grounds. Brown materials include most tree leaves, corn cobs and stalks, straw and hay, wood chips and paper (like paper grocery bags). Between each layer sprinkle soil to give the pile a dose of beneficial microorganisms. They will be the ones that perform the decomposition dirty work. Make sure to moisten the pile to the consistency of a damp cloth or sponge.
Turn or Rotate The PileRotating or turning the pile frequently will increase air flow to the middle of the pile speeding up the decomposition of the compost. Use a broom handle to poke holes in the pile to give the inside a breath of fresh air. Turn the pile with a garden fork when it begins to cool. You should move debris that is not fully decomposed into the center of the pile.
Finishing The CompostIt can typically take anywhere from three months to two years to produce finished compost. The more attention you give your compost pile the better it will produce. Frequently turning the pile, adding the right mix of ingredients and maintain the correct moisture level will help to speed up the entire composting process. Compost is ready to use when the dark, rich compost easily crumbles in your hand. How do you make your own compost? Do you use a compost pile or a tumbler? I'd love to hear about your composting process!
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