How to Set Up a Compost Pile

To help the plants in your garden grow a compost pile can be a good option. A compost pile will also help your plants fight disease and fend off insects.

Here is a step by step method in setting up a compost pile.

* Contain the compost pile – You may be able to just pile things up but having a container for the compost can help with the pile. You can make a container out of wood, plastic, or wire. When composting critical mass is needed in order to generate heat. Around 4 feet of space per side is a good size for a compost container. There are darker compost containers that are specifically for composting will retain heat from the sun and gives daily turning, which can help the materials in the pile to break down quicker.

* Preparation – After you have gathered the materials for the compost pile you should cut them into smaller pieces. The smaller the pieces the better. The smaller the pieces are the easier it will be for bacteria to get into them, breaking them down. Spread the materials in layers that are 3“ to 5“ thick starting with a brown layer then adding a green layer. On top of each green layer you can add 1“ or 2“ of manure or garden soil. You can help the nutrients of the pile by adding wood ash, lime, granite dust, bone meal, and green-sand, to each section that is completed. If you use a barrel for your compost you do not have to create layers as you can pile the materials and add some water. You can then turn the tumbler so that the materials will be distributed.

Chopping and Turning – You should let the pile sit for a period of 3 days and then turn it. The best way to do this is get a mattock and garden fork and chop through the layers using the mattock. You can pull back after each and every swing in order to turn the pile inside out. Now expose the layers by lifting them with the garden fork. Now chop them. It can be easier to move each of the chopped layers into another compost container and then continue to chop the layers in the first bin. You can get a compost thermometer in order to monitor the temperature. Leave the pile and when the temperature falls you have to turn it again. If you do not have a thermometer you can turn the pile every 3 days. If you can’t turn it every three days it will still be ok but the compost will take longer. Every time you turn the job will become easier because the compost materials become smaller. When the pile has stopped heating and is the same color as the texture it is ready to use on your plants.

* Using the Compost – You can use the compost as it is or you can also screen the compost. In order to screen it you will need a riddle or you can also make your own using hardware cloth and a frame, built from 2×4′s or 2×6′s. Now shake the compost through the riddle. The large pieces that will not go through can still be good for mulching. The mulch compost will keep down the weeds, will give the soil nutrients, and help moisture retention in the ground. You can spread the compost in your garden before you till or fork the soil before you plant. The screened compost can be a good additive for container mixes as it gives many nutrients and does not burn the plant roots.

Author: Jason Green