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How to make a compost pile
Making compost is an excellent, self-reliant way to improve your lawn or garden. It also helps reduce the amount of waste you throw out.
In a compost pile, fungi and bacteria break down organic material. You can compost almost anything that comes from a plant, but animal products can produce odors and attract pests. In general, your compost pile should have two types of components: “greens” and “browns.” Greens are moist, fresh materials like grass clippings and kitchen waste. They are high in nitrogen. Browns are dry, older plants like dried hay and dead leaves. These add carbon to the compost pile.
Location and container
The first thing to consider when making a compost pile is where to put it. Choose a sunny spot that is out of the way, but still close enough to reach with the hose. For smaller compost piles, use a metal trash can with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. For a larger project, you can make your own compost enclosure. You will need:
- Four corner posts: 5ft long, l ft of which is to be inserted in the ground, and 2-5in square.
- Side pieces: 4ft long, 3in wide and at least 1in thick. Six will be needed for each side, for a total of 24 pieces.
The sides should be spaced approximately 4in apart and screwed or nailed into the corner posts. Use wood sealer on all timber to protect against rot.
Making the pile
Once you have your enclosure, start layering in composting materials. Start with about 3in of old twigs or hay to facilitate drainage and ventilation. Then, add 3-6in of green ingredients followed by 3in of brown. Whenever you add a green layer, cover it with 1/2in of either rich soil or manure. This will both add nutrients to the pile and increase the amounts of bacteria and fungi. Continue alternating layers of green and brown until the pile is about 4ft high or until your garbage can is full.
Keep your compost heap damp, but not soaking wet. It should contain about as much moisture as a used sponge. The pile will heat up and decomposition will happen fastest at the middle of the heap, so you will need to turn your heap every couple of weeks to encourage all of the waste to break down at the same rate. Just push the compost from the sides into the middle of the pile using a hoe or shovel.
You know your compost is ready for use when it breaks down into fine particles and is dark in color, resembling rich soil.
What NOT to compost
| Animal fatAnimal manures, especially the droppings of cats and dogsBread or cake (these may attract mice)|
| MagazinesMeat and dairy productsMetals, plastics, glass.|
Sawdust from treated timber
Weeds that have seeds or underground stems.