Creating a Compost Pile
WHAT IS COMPOST?
When you “break it down”, Compost is the result of organic materials that have naturally broken down. Compost can include leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells…almost anything that breaks down once exposed to open air, moisture, and/or changing temperatures (with the exception of materials that could host potentially harful bacteria.
Try to avoid meats, greasy or processed ingredients, or pet droppings). If tended correctly, the result will be a nutrient rich additive to any garden.
WHY BOTHER? I ALREADY USE FERTILIZER.
Fertilizer is great, and when used appropriately can provide a nitrogen rich supplement; intended to foster fast, healthy plant growth. Compost on the other hand contains rich nutrients designed for the soil itself.
Compost replaces many of the naturally occuring bacteria needed for healthy growth environment and it reintroduces essential fungi which work with the plants root system to feed in the most efficient manner possible. Compost helps healthy plants to resist disease and has been proven to enhance the flavor and nutritional content of many vegetables.
Compost helps regulate moisture levels and provides an environment conducive to beneficial insect activity.
Compost! It’s what’s for dinner….for your soil.
HOW DO I GET ME SOME OF THAT?
Compost takes time. It is the product of natural decomposition and when it comes to nature, well she just can’t be rushed. Decomposition is the process of naturally occurring bacteria feeding on and breaking down the organic ingredients. Left to it’s own devices, decomposition will occur at a consistent and relatively progressive pace. However, even under the most ideal conditions, those little guys can only eat so much-so fast.
This is the trade off for quality and cost effective compost.
For professional gardeners (nursery’s, etc), the sheer quantity required may necessitate purchasing pre-packaged compost. Most lawn care stores carry composts during the planting season; which is of adequate quality to get the job done. But for the discerning gardening enthusiast (not to mention economically and ecologically friendly gardener), you know the
benefits of creating your own. And if your soil could talk, it would tell you… “Nothing tastes as good as home made”.
CREATING YOUR OWN COMPOST PILE
You’ve decided to go with your own compost. Congratulations! Let’s take a moment to “break down” how it’s done…
For effective home composting, there are essentially two way to go: bin or pile.
- Composting bins are simply containers designed to facilitate the decomposition process, protecting you from the unsightly mess of organics breaking down while protecting the compost itself from unwanted visitors. There are more variations on the compost bin than there are ingredients in your compost pile, and many can be purchased in kits or pre-assembled. And, if you are particularly handy with the tool box, there are schematics to be found all across the world wide web. Of course, if you see that there’s just no need to go through all the fuss… you can keep it simple and create a compost pile.
- To begin your compost pile, find an out of the way location with enough surrounding space to work with a shovel or rake. Moderate-to-low direct sunlight is adequate, though warm and humid is the compost piles best friend.
- Sprinkle your pile with a couple of shovelfuls of topsoil or previously composted materials to include the needed microorganisms for decomposition. Water evenly. A soggy pile is an unhappy pile.
- Layer in pre-mulched leaves and chopped or shredded organic materials. Add a few shovelfuls of topsoil and water again.
- Folding in organic fertilizer will reinforce your compost with added nitrogen. This can speed decomposition and promote quick, healthy plant growth.
- Continue adding layers until your pile is roughly 3 feet tall or so.
- Covering your pile with a tarp or breathable burlap sheet (while not mandatory) will help to prevent runoff or rain fall over watering the pile. This will also help to trap condensation and regulate temperatures.
– Bill Brown
Photographer: Kessner Photography