How to Guide: Building Your Compost Pile

Visit our Getting Started Guide: Compost Piles for some basic information before starting your Compost Pile.


This short guide will give you detailed step-by-step instructions on how to build your Compost Pile. So follow along to be making Soil Amendments before you know it!


Step 1

You'll need materials to get your compost pile started, so gather an adequate amount of both "Green" and "Brown" composting materials. Try to keep things balanced around the 30:1 C:N Ratio and break your materials down into smaller pieces if necessary but separate your "Greens" and "Browns" for the time being.


***Remember***

You've got to build a pile that is AT LEAST 1 cubic meter or 3'x3'x3' on each side for the composting pile to work efficiently.


Step 2

Scout out a location for your new compost pile. When choosing the place for your new compost pile, keep in mind that it's best if your heap stays moist and has minimal sunlight. You also may want to keep it away from anywhere that smell may be an issue. Once you've located the perfect spot in your yard, you'll need to lay an old pallet or sticks in a criss-cross pattern to increase air movement underneath the pile.


Step 3

After you've built your base up, it's time to start constructing our pile. The process of making a compost pile is similar to making a Lasagna Garden. Alternate thin layers of both "Green" and "Brown" material over your base and mix the layers with a pitchfork or stick as you go. Every 30cm or 1' thoroughly water the new compost pile. Your Aerobic Bacteria will thank you and have everything necessary to flourish. You've now successfully built your first Compost Pile! Wahoo! We'll be focusing on compost pile maintenance from here.


Step 4

After letting your new compost pile sit for a couple of weeks, you should notice that the compost pile is warm or even hot to the touch, possibly having even shrunk some. You've got to decide whether you intend to use your nutrient-rich soil now or if you're going to let it continue to break down even further. The bacteria feeding on the waste will continue to work until there is nothing left. However, over time the process slows down a lot. If you're satisfied with your pile, leave it where it sits and start a new pile next to the previous one if necessary.


Step 5

If you're in a rush to get your compost working in your garden, you need to turn the pile after a couple of weeks. The process of turning your compost pile is relatively simple. Using a spade or pitchfork, you move the compost pile from one location to another, usually right next to the original heap. During this process, it mixes the compost pile and lets air into the center of your mass. If the compost pile has dried out, you should water it as you turn it every 30cm or 1' as you rebuild the heap. Then leave it to do its work for another couple of weeks, checking the moisture after a week.


Step 6

After another two weeks, your pile likely got warm to the touch again and has shrunk some more. Now it's time to turn your compost pile again, just like you did in the previous step! Then leave it to work for another couple of weeks, checking the moisture after a week.


Step 7

After six weeks from the start of your endeavor, your pile should resemble a rich mound of black soil. There may be a few chunks of organic matter still throughout the compost pile. Remember tho it's a rich mixture of minerals your garden will adore. 


***Troubleshooting***

If your compost hardly resembles soil, you've made a mistake. After the second turning, your pile doesn't start to look like soil steps were likely missed. Common causes of this issue are Not Enough Greens, Lack of Moisture, or Your Pile is Too Small. You can use these materials to try and build another compost pile.


***Tip***

Organic Gardeners who do a lot of composting tend to like to keep things tidy. They usually keep three bins or barrels right next to each other for the process. Bin 1 to start their pile. Then the container is then turned into Bin 2 after a couple of weeks. Finally, after a couple more weeks, it's turned once again into Bin 3. After a couple of weeks in Bin 3, the materials are then taken and spread out on your garden. You can have up to 3 full bins with compost at various stages.


Conclusion

Composting is a great way to reuse trash and unwanted items to create nutrient-rich soil. You'll need to consider what you want to put into the mix and what you want to keep out! Be careful with what you choose to add to your mix, or you might end up with a stinky, overheated, slow composting mess that will attract vermin to your yard. NEVER COMPOST TOXIC ITEMS!!! The toxins will be passed on to your soil and eventually the fruits of your labours. Some items you should never add to a compost pile include;


Charcoal Ashes, Kitty Litter, Colour Printed or Glossy Newspaper/Flyers, Sticky Labels, Dog or Human Feces, Lime, Meat & Animal Fat, Fish, Grease, Oil, Bone, Citrus Peels, Toxic Materials, Onion, Treated Wood or any form of Synthetic Fertilizer.

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