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Composting Done Simply

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Until a couple years ago, I never had the desire to have a compost pile. In fact I probably couldn’t tell you what products to put into compost. I also believed that compost piles smelled terrible and couldn’t understand why someone would want one.   I didn’t understand what composting was all about.

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Composting Done Simply

Once we moved and I finally had the space to have gardens, I knew I needed to have a compost pile.  The benefits of incorporating organic matter into your soil made the decision to start a compost pile easy.  To read more about amending your soil click here.

What to put into your compost pile?

The Carbon Brown Team

Organic matter under this category includes leaves, straw, hay, sawdust, wood chips and egg shells.  Brown materials contain higher carbon than nitrogen vs. their counterparts the green team.   A higher percentage of carbon based materials needs to be in the compost pile, most recommend a 3 to 1 ratio of brown to green matter.  Be aware though if you have too much brown then it decomposes much slower.

The fall season is the perfect time to incorporate some brown matter into your pile. Instead of bagging up all our leaves, I vacuum them up with my mulcher and place them into the compost pile.

The Nitro Green Team

Green matter has more nitrogen and is made up of common household kitchen scraps like veggies and fruits.  In addition you could also add grass clippings, leaves, coffee grounds and my favorite manure.

Compost pile with rich green nitrogen ingredients on top

Between the rabbits and chickens I am knee deep in manure, so I am thankful that I have a place and purpose for all that poop!

What doesn’t go into the pile

Your compost pile isn’t a garbage disposal so please keep the meats, cheeses, bones and other nonsense out.  Putting in those items will attract animals and make your compost pile smell nasty. 

Another tip I’d recommend is know the appropriate manure to dump into the compost pile.  Sure rabbit, chicken and horse manure is just fine but please lets not dump Fluffy’s kitty litter box contents into the compost.  Pet waste may contain some pathogens that could be harmful for you to place in your garden beds.

Picking The Right Spot

It’s a compost pile, not a shed or immovable structure that you need to think long and hard about.  If you pick a spot and realize it doesn’t work for your property just start again somewhere else.

My pile is way back in the rear of our property where it would get adequate sunlight and not close to the house-at my husband’s request.  You want your compost pile to receive sun because it helps warms the pile making decomposition happen quicker.  In addition the micro organisms will heat the pile as they are doing their work.

I do have a bucket located right outside my back door with a cover that I add my kitchen scraps to.  Then weekly or so I take the contents of the bucket and dump it into the compost pile.  If I didn’t have the bucket unfortunately my kitchen scraps wouldn’t make it to the compost pile.  The process has to be simple or else you just won’t do it.

Bin or Ground?

Depends.  I myself don’t have a bin because I believe a compost pile can benefit more from being directly on the ground.  Placed on the ground, those wonderful worms have access to my pile to do their magic on my scraps.  I have access to all sides of my compost pile on the ground so I can assess how it’s maturing and I can turn it freely when I want.

Now in some situations it might be better for a person to have a compost bin.  In areas where neighbors are close and the sight of a pile of trash so to speak can be unsightly.  Also there are composting bins that rotate so you don’t have to worry about getting the shovel out and doing it yourself.

Maintenance

Honestly, there isn’t much maintenance involved in keeping a compost pile-hence why everyone should consider having one.  One important thing you should do with your compost pile is give it a turn every once in awhile.  You need to turn the compost to aerate it to get oxygen into the pile for those micro organisms to do their job.  That’s about as strenuous as it gets.

Your compost pile should maintain some moisture so if your area goes without rain  for a long time you might want to add some water.  I haven’t had to add water to my compost because the rain has done a well enough job.

Other Considerations

There is what I like to call this “333” rule that you’ll often read about compost. Basically you want the pile to be 3 feet high x 3 feet wide x 3 feet deep. The thought process is that you need a sufficient amount of volume for the decomposing to happen. I wouldn’t get the measuring tape out by no means but you do want to start your pile with a sufficient amount of material-this is why fall is the perfect time to start.

My compost pile covered with hay
My compost pile. Under all that hay is glorious black gold!

There are 2 things you need more than anything to get compost and that is time and patience. Last planting season was actually the first year I was able to use my compost because when I had started in fall it still wasn’t ready the following spring.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion of how long the composting process takes and there are so many factors contributing to the process that it would be difficult to determine why it took so long. Too much greens, not enough? Who knows! I can tell you I’m not out there  measuring how much of what is going into the pile, it just goes in!

The Finished Product

When your compost is ready to be used it will look and smell like dirt.  Yes you’ll finding yourself actually smelling it-at least I did!

Example of how finished rich compost should look
Finished Compost

Reducing our carbon footprint in this world is something worth considering to everyone and compost is a easy way to do just that.  It feels good knowing your trash has another purpose.

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