Compost Pile Basics: Making Compost For Your Garden

What do you do with your garden waste (leaves, grass clippings, shrub and plant trimmings)?

If you are into gardening, then one of the best things you can do is learn home to make compost at home using the garden waste you would normally send to the trash. It is easy and very cheap and will really help your garden soil.

Once you get set up you are going to be using things that you would normally throw away, so you are helping the environment as well.

Compost Equipment

One of the easier ways to make nice fresh homemade organic compost is to use a compost tumbler. A compost tumbler is basically a bin set up on a frame with a crank that will allow you to effortlessly turn it over and over a few times. You can buy a kit online and have it set up in your yard in no time. Then all you need to do is fill it up with compost-able materials (yard waste and organic table scraps work best). Then each day when you are outside just give the crank a few turns with will flip the bin a few times. This will serve to mix and breakdown the materials as well as aerate it. Before you know it you’ll be spreading your first batch of homemade compost out in your garden.

If you have an area that is out of site and you don’t mind waiting a while longer for the compost to be ready, you can make a compost bin by placing four posts (choose post length to allow three feet above ground) in the ground three feet apart and wrapping and fastening an inexpensive wire like chicken wire around the posts. You can leave one side open for easy access or wrap the wire on all four sides and wire the front shut, so you can open it when you need to add to the pile or remove compost. You can then turn the compost by hand or with a compost turning tool.

A more interesting way to make great compost is to set up a wormery. This is basically a bin that you drill some air holes into and fill with moist newspaper strips (you can also buy kits online). Then you add some red wiggler worms which you purchase online (a couple thousand will do and should cost less then $40). Then each day add your organic table scraps to the bin and let the worms do their job. In about 90 days the worms will have created nice wormey compost that you can spread right into your garden. Most people will keep the worms in the bin to make another batch, but the worms are also great in your garden to feel free to spread some or all of them with the compost as well.

Compost Materials

Regardless of the method you choose to use for composting at home, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. In addition to your garden waste, you can also compost some kitchen waste. Vegetable scraps and egg shells as well as coffee and tea grounds make great additions to the compost pile. DO NOT try to compost meat or any oils or greases.

The composting process requires nitrogen and carbon as well as water and air. Your compost pile needs a mixture of both green waste (nitrogen), such as grass clippings and trimmings from your plants and brown waste (carbon) such as fallen leaves to make the composting process work as it should. The green waste provides nitrogen and moisture (water) that speeds up the process of composting. A good rule of thumb is about 1/4 of your compost pile should be greens with the rest being browns. Turning your compost pile, the action of the worms in a wormery or turning the crank as in the case of the compost tumbler adds the needed air.

If your compost pile is too wet you can have a smelly mess, if it is too dry your pile will take ages to compost. An open compost pile as suggested above can be covered with a tarp if needed when the weather is particularly rainy. You will need to add water if things get too dry. The ideal amount of moisture has often been compared to the amount of moisture in a wrung out sponge.

Don’t worry if everything is not perfect, as composting will still take place just at a slower rate than it would when the air, water, nitrogen and carbon are in the optimal proportions.