Starting and maintaining a compost pile of your own is one of the best things you can do for your garden. A well-tended compost pile is nutrient rich and can boost growth all around your garden. But starting a compost pile isn’t just a matter of throwing food scraps out onto the dirt. Check out these easy instructions for getting started:
- Choose where your compost pile will be located. You’ll likely want the area to be contained so that it doesn’t spill over into the rest of the garden. You can use chicken wire or plastic fencing to section off the compost area in a corner of your garden (you can also purchase a container if you prefer).
- Know what to add. Compost heaps are made up of a number of organic sources, including fruit and vegetable trimmings, grass clippings (herbicide free), leaves, shredded paper or cardboard, and manure from grazing animals. You should never add anything greasy or oily, meat, meat-eating animal manure, or anything with herbicides. Try to put in equal parts green material (wetter) and brown material (dry) to keep the pile from getting too slimy or dry.
- Weeds may also be added if your compost pile is large enough that it generates sufficient heat to “cook” the seeds so they don’t take root in your garden. Adding equal parts brown material and green material should cause the compost to reach an internal temperature of 130° Fahrenheit, which will destroy most weeds (seed and root).
- Mix it up. Once you get a good pile going, you’ll need to make sure that you keep the pile damp. If it is too dry, it will take much longer for materials to decompose. You should also turn the material every 1-2 weeks to keep the process going. As it decomposes, your pile should shrink in size.
Continue adding to your compost pile regularly and within a few months, you should have a dark and nutritious compost heap. This can be mixed with garden soil to give plants a healthy nutrient boost. Using compost will save you money that would otherwise be spent on potting mixes and fertilizers, and keeps the organic materials used from going into a landfill. For those gardeners who have the space, a compost pile really is a win-win.