One of the easiest projects that you can do when it comes to gardening is to build a compost pile. It is also one of the most important parts of your garden. A compost pile offers some great benefits for both the soil and your fall cleanup efforts. In today’s article, we are going to go over the ins and outs of how to make a compost pile at home. But first, we will highlight some of the neat benefits of having your own compost pile.
What Is a Compost Pile?
For individuals who don’t know, a compost pile is simply a pile of leftover organic scraps. These scraps can come from the outdoors, your kitchen, and even leftover animal waste. You might be wondering why anyone would ever want to collect compost, well, compost can provide the nutrients that your soil and plants need. A compost pile also feeds microbes that are beneficial and ensures that it will keep all the resources that are valuable out of the landfills.
As the organic material begins to breaks down, the nutrients and minerals feed the soil and give an overall boost of health to your garden. For gardeners who are looking to add that additional boost in a timely manner, composting is the solution that they seek.
Why You Should Build a Compost Pile
From financial reasons to environmental ones, there are so many reasons why you should learn how to make a compost pile. Let’s take a look at some of the top ones.
One of the best benefits of a compost pile is the significant reduction of waste it provides. When you are cooking or cleaning around the house, you will find that a lot of the items you come across can be composted. By composting, you get the benefit of being environmentally conscious all while putting resources back into the Earth. It is almost like having a mini recycling plant in your own backyard.
You Can Create a Rich Fertilizer
If you are a natural gardener, then you will love the fact that composting can provide you with having a nutritionally rich fertilizer. Having a fertilizer that is rich in minerals and nutrients can help you in having a successful harvest. Whether it be vegetables or flowers, a rich fertilizer can be the difference between a dull garden and a bountiful one.
Composting Can Help You Save Money
Once you learn how to make a compost pile, you will soon feel the financial benefit of it. For starters, if you pay per bag for garbage collection, you will notice that you will be throwing out less. This means more money in your pocket. Not only that but when it comes time to garden, a compost pile can be super helpful in saving you money. You no longer have to spend piles of money on buying fertilizer.
Composting is Good for the Environment
From reducing toxins to helping keep organic matter out of landfills, composting is proven to helping keep the environment clean. When you compost, you help return soil that has been infused with pesticides and other toxins back to a healthy state. Not only that, but composting helps to keep such toxins out of essential resources such as water supplies and other plants too.
Now that you have a general sense of how beneficial composting can be to a community. Let’s dive into the specifics of how to make a compost pile right at home.
Here Are Some Tips on How to Make a Compost Pile at Home:
Choose the Right Location
The first thing that you need to do when thinking about how to build a compost pile is to find the right location. One of the main ways of narrowing down a location is to look for a place where your compost pile can easily be reached. This location can be out in the open if you want the ease of access. If you want it to be hidden, then you can conceal it in your yard behind screens as well. Before you set up, however, be sure to check if there are any ordinances in your town when it comes to placing the compost. Some townships have specific regulations; you want to make sure that you are following them.
It is always best to have a compost pile that can easily be accessed. This is because you will be adding new material, turning to add air, and removing any compost that is finished from the pile continuously. If you are going to put it somewhere that is not easy to access, then maintaining the bin might become a chore. This, in turn, might cause you to stop taking care of it. You will also need to water the pile often in the summer months. Because of this, you will want to make sure that the water hose can easily reach the area you’ve set up.
The best time to create a compost pile is during the fall season when materials are readily available. If this time frame has passed, no worries, a compost pile can be created at any time and be just as successful. The finished product should be ready after 3 to 4 months or when the spring season starts. With proper turning and carbon-to-nitrogen ratios, a summer compost pile can be ready in 1 to 2 months.
Building a Container for your Compost Pile
Once you have specified a location, it is time to build a proper container. One of the best methods of how to make a compost pile container is by using wood pallets. Wood pallets are economically friendly, and will help keep your compost nice and tidy. The size of the container will depend on the quantity of pile that you want to build, however, the recommended size is at least 3×3 ft. To start building your compost pile with wood pallets, you can check out these directions for a simple pallet compost bin from The Lazy Homesteader. For even more ideas, check out our Composting Board on Pinterest.
If you do not have access to a wood pallet, then a garbage can with holes drilled or the bottom removed will work too. Even forming a 10’ length of galvanized chicken wire into a circle is another simple method that can be set up in minutes.
It is best to start with these easy options when you are just starting out on how to make a compost pile. Of course, you can upgrade to a sturdier container later on. It might also be worth your while to check with your town for materials too. Some municipalities offer compost bins for free or at a reduced rate.
Choose Nitrogen and Carbon Materials
Once your compost pile is set up, it is important to know what materials you will be adding. Nitrogen and carbon elements are essential to the health of your compost pile. This is because carbon is a source of energy and is essentially the basic building blocks of life. Nitrogen plays just as important a role as it essential for protein and cell structure.
When building your compost pile you want to make sure to maintain an appropriate carbon to nitrogen ratio. Carbon scientists (yes, there are such professionals) have deduced that the ideal ratio to aim for includes 25-30 parts carbon for every 1 part nitrogen. This is essential to know because having too much carbon will slow down the composition of your compost. If you have the opposite issue of too much nitrogen, then you run the risk of having a stinky smelling pile. Having this proper ration will allow you to have a fertile compost pile that is also sweet smelling.
Browns – High Carbon Items
Some of the best high carbon items to add to your compost pile can come right from your kitchen scraps. You can also find some browns around your house and in your backyard. Here are some of the items you should be sure to save:
- Wood ashes
- Shredded newspaper
- Pine needles
- Wood chips
- Fruit waste
- Corn Stalks
- Shredded cardboard
Greens – High Nitrogen Items
Many of the high nitrogen items will also come directly from your kitchen scraps. You will also be able to find plenty of greens outside of your home as well. Here are some high nitrogen items to keep an eye out for.
- Coffee grounds
- Food waste
- Vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Garden waste
Start Layering Your Materials
Once you have a general idea of items to look for when you are learning how to make a compost pile, the next thing you need to focus on is the assembly. Layering your carbon and nitrogen items is key to the health of your compost pile. The first layer should consist of carbon items only. Some essentials to include are straw, sod, hay, and sawdust. The next layer will consist primarily of nitrogen materials. These items include garden debris, vegetable waste, fertilizers, and manure. The last layer is where you will include the topsoil. When you are selecting your topsoil, try and steer away from sterile soil or ones that are treated with certain insecticides.
Maintaining Your Compost Pile
Turning your pile is easy and is used to increase oxygen inside the pile. Turning your compost pile also helps you keep an eye on the level of moisture. When you turn your pile, any excess water will drain away from your compost pile. Overall, when you turn your compost pile, you help to speed up the breakdown. Some people never turn their pile at all, they let nature take its course. If you decide to turn your pile, start with the outer and middle parts of the pile and use a pitchfork.
Part of maintaining your compost pile is making sure that it is neither too dry nor too wet. If your pile gets too dry, you will need to water the pile. Stirring and watering your compost pile will ensure that you are distributing the decomposition properly. Just be sure that you are not overwatering your pile. Doing so can destroy the health of your compost.
You can keep your compost pile healthy by ensuring that the center of it remains moist and hot. Once the center goes below 43 degrees Celsius, stir the compost using a shovel and start turning the materials around. If the weather is cooler, you may notice that your compost pile will emit steam. During warmer days, you may actually be able to feel the pile’s heat as well.
Pests in Your Compost Pile
When are learning how to make a compost pile, one of the key things you need to have knowledge about is good pests and bad pests. Let’s go over the critters that you will want to keep an eye out for.
Pests to Keep Out
You will want to keep large pests like rodents and raccoons out of the garden compost bin. The best way to do that is to keep meat out of the pile and make sure any exposed food is covered with a layer of dry leaves, soil, or finished compost. Large pests and rodents in your compost pile may eat newly added items. If this continues, then the balance of your compost pile will be thrown off.
Other insects such as wasps and hornets can become a problem. Keep these insects away by keeping the compost at a high enough temperature. This will discourage insects from nesting and laying eggs inside the bin.
If you see maggots in your compost bin, you should immediately remove them. If you do not, then they may begin multiplying. This can lead to a big problem if not taken care of as soon as possible.
Pests to Keep In
Some creatures, such as millipedes and slugs, are supposed to be present in your compost pile. In fact, they actually assist in the natural process of composting. It is actually not uncommon to find seasoned composters adding slugs to their pile. Slugs have the ability to break down materials, further speeding up the composting process. Other common insects that you should welcome include woodlice, sowbugs, and pillbugs. These isopods are naturally drawn to compost piles. They help with decomposition, burrowing tunnels, and even aerating your compost pile.
Final Thought on How to Make a Compost Pile
As you can see, when it comes to how to make a compost pile at home, it’s fairly easy. With just a little bit of resources, knowledge, time, and persistent, you too can have a healthy compost pile in no time. Having a compost bin in the garden will ensure that you can have nutrients for your soil and plants whenever they need it. And if you happen to make extra, then you can use any remaining compost to help cover any flower beds that you have.
Now that you have a general sense of how to make a compost pile, start gathering all the materials including the container that you will be using. Then, find an ideal spot to get started, and start reaping the benefits off of it.
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