So you want to try your hand at pile composting? This article will discuss the key elements to having a traditional compost heap.
A compost heap will require space. Your pile can be as small as 2'x2' or as large as a football field. Many choose to have 2-3 heaps side by side so that when one becomes full, you can start another heap while waiting on heap #1 to finish decomposing. I personally have 3 heaps.
This is an area that you will hear different advice. Suggestions will vary but in my experience I use a combination of 60% brown to 40% green. Some say carbon/nitrogen and some say brown/green. Browns refer to fiberous materials: leaves, cardboard, straw, paper, ect.
Greens refer to food scraps, manure, ect.
Basically, I start and end each layer with browns.
Aeration is VERY important for healthy compost. A pile without air is a stinky disgusting mucky mess. The simple way to add air to your pile is to turn it every week or two. It is labor intensive and some people opt to simple poke holes in the pile by turning a shovel upside down and driving it down into the pile in several spots.
A dry mound is a dead mound that will not decompose. Keeping a pile damp is key. A weekly rain shower will do the trick but if you dont get a rain, then you should water your pile yourself. A good practice is to keep a layer of straw atop your heap to keep moisture in.
In summary, having the right space, the right materials, and providing air/water will set you on the right track to having successful pile composting. And you will likely reap the nutritious benefits within 2-3 months. You know it is ready for use when it looks like and smells like dirt.
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