Alternatives Available When Building a Compost Pile


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Find a Location for the Pile

There is no alternative link to this section because there is no more information to give.

It is pretty simple. You must decide where you want your pile, at least 2 feet from structures such as fences or houses. Beyond that, you can put forth more effort by meeting one or all of these requirements (same as on step-by-step page):

  • At least 2 feet away from a structure such as a fence or house.
  • Easy access for you
  • Close to source of materials, i.e., leaves, grass clippings
  • Easy access to a source of water for wetting down the pile
  • Level surface
  • Well-drained surface
  • Pavement or earth underneath are OK -- with pavement, the nutrients can't leach out into the ground; with ground, earthworms will come to help decompost your pile
  • Near, but at least 2 feet away from, a wall or tree to break the wind (which could dry out your pile)
  • Not so near a pine tree that it would catch a lot of needles (pine needles are high in carbon and will slow down the composting process)
  • Shade if you live in a very dry, hot climate (to keep pile from drying out in intense sun)
  • Away from vegetable gardens -- slugs and other critters may like your compost pile



Set up a Compost Bin (Optional)

LISTED FROM LEAST EFFORT TO MOST EFFORT

  • Don't use a bin. Just pile your organic materials on the ground or pavement.
  • Buy a bin. With some there is no setup at all, others can be set up in 20 seconds. Tell the salesman (in person or 800 number) that you want something that sets up in 10 seconds and see what they come up with. See Information on Types of Compost Bins Available from Vendors.
  • Make a bin from bales of hay. Just stack them 4 feet high around a 3 x 3 foot square area.
  • Pick up 4 palettes from the garbage area behind your local grocery or warehouse store. Set them on end around a 3 x 3 foot square. Tie the corners together with plastic string or some form of twist ties.
  • See Instructions for Building a Compost Bin and decide which one would be the easiest for you.
  • Build a really elaborate system with several bins, covers.
  • See if you can set up a system that will monitor and turn itself. Let me know if you come up with anything. Thanks.



Prepare the Materials

LISTED FROM LEAST EFFORT TO MOST EFFORT

  • No gathering, no chopping, no batch process at all. Just throw leaves in whenever you get around to raking them, grass clippings when you get around to mowing the lawn, etc. Actually, this is not a bad method. I have a separate bin for this purpose.
  • Gather materials, but don't worry about whether they are carbons or nitrogens. If the pile you build starts to stink, it needs more carbon. To keep peace with your neighbors, you should add more carbons. If the pile you build doesn't get hot, it needs more nitrogen. If you care that it's not hot, add nitrogen. Otherwise, ignore it and be happy.
  • Gather materials, attempting to get the proper C:N ratio of 30:1. No chopping.
  • Gather materials, attempting to get the proper C:N ratio of 30:1. Chop the carbons.



Build the Pile

LISTED FROM LEAST EFFORT TO MOST EFFORT

  • Throw organic materials into the pile as they become available. Don't use the batch method.
  • Use the batch method, just throw everything and mix it up. If the pile you build starts to stink, it needs more carbon. To keep peace with your neighbors, you should add more carbons. If the pile you build doesn't get hot, it needs more nitrogen. If you care that it's not hot, add nitrogen. Otherwise, ignore it and be happy.
  • Use the batch method, layering to estimate proper C:N ratio.
  • Perform the previous alternative, add water with each layer.
  • Perform the previous alternative, remembering to water the ground under the bin before you start.
  • Perform the previous alternative, building a 4 - 6" base of twigs or other coarse carbon to encourate aeration at the base.
  • Perform the previous alternative, including aeration tubes in your pile. You can build one of these by drilling holes in pipe such as PVC pipe and laying the pipes horizontally across the bin about 6 inches off the ground, so that they will provide air to the pile. Put materials into pile after inserting pipe.

    You can also make a 4-5" square tube of wire mesh to set vertically in the center of the pile.



Cover the Pile (Optional)

LISTED FROM LEAST EFFORT TO MOST EFFORT

  • Don't cover.
  • Cover with a black plastic bag like a garbage bag.
  • Buy a cover or buy a bin that already has a cover. Some come with hinged and/or locking lids.



Monitor the Pile (Optional)

LISTED FROM LEAST EFFORT TO MOST EFFORT

  • Ignore your pile.
  • Check for dryness and water every now and then.
  • Check the temperature the day after you built your pile to ensure it heated up once.
  • Check the temperature on a regular basis, turning when the pile starts to cool.



Turn the Pile (Optional)

LISTED FROM LEAST EFFORT TO MOST EFFORT

  • Don't turn the pile unless it begins to smell bad.
  • When you feel like it, take a pitchfork and "stir up" the contents of the pile
  • Every so often, move the pile into another bin, or pick up the bin from around the pile and re-shovel the matter into the bin. You could also just shovel the matter out of the bin onto the ground -- remember, bins aren't required. This is better than stirring because all the matter in the pile is disturbed.
  • Perform the previous alternative, while noticing the point of departure and destination of each shovelful. Move the outside of the pile in, move the inside of the pile out.
  • Perform the previous alternative, adding water regularly.
  • Perform the previous alternative, noting the condition of each shovelful. Shake the shovel or pitchfork to loosen any particles that have become matted.
  • Track the temperature every day at the same time. When the pile starts to cool off after a peak, perform the previous alternative, no matter how often that is.

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Compost Tea eBook
Build a brewer with a bucket and less than $15 worth of components, and make aerated compost tea.
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Composting the Holidays eBook
Compost fall leaves, hay bales, holly wreaths, pine trees, etc. Compost pumpkins (food waste) in a compost pile.
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Navigation

BUILD A PILE

  1. Build a Compost Pile: Basics
  2. Build a Pile: Advanced
  3. ** More on Building a Pile **
  4. Compost Ingredients
  5. Use Finished Compost
  6. Leon's Composting

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