Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Starting Your Backyard Compost Pile

My mom's compost bin with some zinnias given to her by yours truly.

Now that we know what composting is, why we should do it, and where to buy pretty compost pails (Thanks Nick!) it’s time to start your compost pile! There are a few simple steps to get your compost going.

The first thing to do is pick the perfect location. The best location is somewhere that is convenient, not in full sun, and well drained.

To me a convenient location is at the top of the list. Walking half a mile to throw a hand full of carrot peels in the compost will ultimately lead to me throwing those peels in the trash. The compost heap also needs to be near a water source to give the compost a drink every now and again.

If your location is near a tree it may be necessary to put a solid base at the bottom of the compost pile so that roots can't work their way into the treasure chest.

The site also needs to be well drained so that no water is left hanging around.

Once you have the primo spot picked out it is time to start your pile. When adding waste to the compost it is important to layer. The first layer should be approx 6-8" of brown organic waste (see Monday's post for a definition of brown and green waste). Next a layer of green organic waste and a cup of 13-13-13 or 10-10-10 fertilizer(available at your local garden center). The fertilizer adds the necessary nitrogen to help break down the organic wastes. Finally cover with a layer of garden soil.

Before a new layer is added to the pile turn the existing layers with a pitch fork or a shovel.

The compost should stay moist but not saturated, to keep the microorganisms happy.

Once the compost at the bottom looks like potting soil it is ready to be worked into the garden! Good compost is gold! It turns a clay or sandy soil into a perfect growing media and reduces wasted space in our landfills. For more questions on composting send me a message on Twitter or contact your local extension agent(as a taxpayer you pay for them and are an amazing resource- so use them).

Happy composting!

My compost bin acquired for around $30 from a big box store

Freshly turned compost ready for another layer! I'm such a proud parent.


I am a senior at Auburn University majoring in Horticulture Production, president of Horticulture Forum, and a self-professed plant nerd. Sustainable agriculture and environmentally conscious nursery and greenhouse production are some of my passions.

Make sure you follow my ramblings on Twitter here!

And...... WAR EAGLE!

1 comment:

  1. I remember when we were kids in the 60's my dad had a compost pile. He would throw grass clippings, leaves, hedge clippings and leftover table scraps into it. One night he took out the table scraps in the dark to dump them in the compost pile and unknown to him there was a skunk in the compost pile. Well, he hit that skunk on the head with the pot because he did not see it and he got sprayed right in the face. He had to go to the hospital to get his eyes flushed out, and luckily there was no damage to his eyes. Any way that was the end of the compost pile. It's funny to sit back and think about it now. He really stunk up the house for a few days. If he had put a lid on the compost he probably would not have had his little incident.


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