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A Compost Heap in Easy Steps

By Edited Feb 15, 2016 1 6

Make the best compost heap in six stages

Compost 1st step

After you decide upon the location of your compost heap you should ready the soil. To do this, simply remove the grass sods of the footprint you need for the compost pile. The compostible materials will now be able to be in direct contact with the soil microorganisms necessary for making good compost. As this is a heap, you will not require a frame or bin of any kind.

Compost 2nd step

To the, now exposed, bare soil toss on some twigs, chopped brush or similar coarse materials until you have a layer of about 4" created. The purpose of this layer is to allow air circulation at the bottom of the heap and helps to prevent compression of the heap when material is piled onto it.

Compost 3rd step

This next layer should be twice as high as the fist layer at 8" of finer material. Typically this will be leaves, mixed scraps and some grass cuttings. Make sure that this stuff is damp but not wet. It should not be too dry either.

Compost 4th step

The next thing to add is the inoculant which is vital to start the compost pile working. In this case the inoculant is a 1" covering of ordinary earth or soil.

Compost 5th step

Adding manure will provide nitrogen for the heap. Typically a 2-3" layer of manure is added but this step can be skipped, especially if one lives in a city because it can cause some problems with flies. An alternative is commercially composted poultry manure or urea fertilizer. The urea fertilizer is best as a small amount is all that is needed (I pound weight is adequate) for compost making. These materials should be wet.

Compost 6th step

Repeat steps 2-5 until the heap is of the desired size. Create a dip in the top of the pile to catch rainwater, especially during the summer months to prevent the heap from getting too dry. In wintertime the heap can be covered to retain its heat. 

When will the compost be ready?

Composting from start with raw peelings to finish with good compost
This homemade compost pile will usually take four months to break down and be ready for use. If you don’t go near it at all then it might take as long as six months. You may well decide that you will make the compost heap and leave it for a full year before employing it on your vegetable patch. Many gardeners prefer this approach and it works quite well too. To speed up the process you will need to fork the materials around into a new pile every three or four weeks. If it is too dry add some water and if it is too wet add sawdust or other similar material.

How do you know if the compost is ready? 

You will know by the color, texture and richness of the compost. It should be brown, smelling earthy and crumble when touched. The compost is ready for use and if you are going to use it for seedling germination you might want to sieve it to get very fine compost. It is best to have 2 heaps for modern gardening. Start one in the springtime to be ready for autumn planting and have another heap working over the winter months for early springtime use. These simple steps will help you to get the best out of your compost heap.

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Comments

Oct 30, 2011 1:26pm
LLWoodard
Composting is a great way to make use of non-meat kitchen scraps and give back to the earth at the same time. Great article.
Oct 31, 2011 9:42am
Tom_Carver
Hi LL Woodard. Thank you for stopping by, reading and voting for compost. An experienced composter can actually use the meat scraps too for composting but you do need to know exactly what you are doing. Another composting alternative for meat scraps is the wormery which uses special worms which are self contained in a unique bin. It works only on a small scale.
Oct 31, 2011 9:55pm
LLWoodard
Thanks for the additional information, Tom. I had never learned about using meat scraps, but wouldn't the meat attract varmints?
Nov 1, 2011 7:21am
Tom_Carver
Thanks you for returning. The wormery is enclosed fully and the worms do not get into the earth (unlike a regular compost heap). This enclosed bin prevents rodents getting to the meat and other waste. The wormeries use a special type of worm to help break down waste matter. They are available (worms too) for sale but you can make your own provided you make sure to have a drainage tap on it. This tap releases very good liquid compost from the wormery. It is possible to drown your poor worms! It has to be self contained and it uses a stacking system (tiers) for the worms to move up and down through the waste material. If you are new to all this I suggest you buy a small wormery to try out. I have also discovered that ordinary earth worms work just as well as the 'special' wormery ones. Meat waste can be added to large open compost heaps which are working well but you have to balance the meat waste with organic waste by a ratio of 1:10. My friend, and neighbor, who is an expert composter, does manage to compost a whole cooked turkey carcass without any rodent attacks on the heap. The best advice is to keep a compost pile as far away from the home as possible.
Jan 28, 2012 8:37pm
astonerattnet
I usually don't give too much thought to my composting. If it's compostable I'll put it on the pile, takes longer to break down and may not get hot, but mother nature will turn it into compost sooner or later.
Jan 29, 2012 2:31pm
Tom_Carver
Hi astonerattnet, thank you for your visit and comments. You are quite right, of course, about mother nature and everything breaking down naturally eventually. The best advice is to put as much variety into the compost as possible as this will keep it balanced.
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