Here are the basics:
Remove grass and sod cover from the area where you will construct your compost pile to allow materials direct contact with soil microorganisms. The following “recipe” for construction your compost heap is recommended for best results:
A properly made heap will reach temperatures of 140=-160⁰ in four to five days. At this time, you’ll notice the pile “settling,” a good sign that your heap is working properly.
After 5-6 weeks, fork the materials into a new pile, turning the outside of the old heap into the center of the new pile. Add water if necessary. You shouldn’t need to turn you heap a second time. The compost should be ready to use within 3-4 months. A heap started in late spring can be ready for use in the autumn. Start another heap in autumn for use in the spring.
You can make compost even faster by turning the pile more often. Check the internal temperature regularly; when it decreases substantially (usually after about a week), turn the pile.
Compost is ready to use when it is dark brown, crumbly, and earthly-smelling. Let it stabilize for a few extra days, and screen it through a ½: screen if you want the finest product. Turn your soil, apply 1”-3” layers of compost, and work it in well, up to one pound (a heaping, double handful) per square foot.
|The compost has a bad odor.||Not enough air.||Turn it. Add dry material if the pile is too wet.|
|The center of the pile is dry.||Not enough water.||Moisten and turn the pile.|
|The compost is damp and warm only in the middle.||Too small.||Collect more material and mix the old ingredients into a new pile.|
|The heap is damp and sweet-smelling, but still will not heat up.||Lack of nitrogen.||Mix in a nitrogen source like fresh grass clippings, fresh manure, or bloodmeal.|
Snow Fence Bin
Bins made with prefabricated snow fencing are popular because they are simple to make and easy to move and store. To build this bin, buy the appropriate length of prefabricated fencing, and fasten two-by-fours (2x4s) to the bottom to form a square.
Woven Wire Bin
One easy to make, economical container requires only a length of woven wire fencing. Multiply the diameter you want for the compost heap by 3.2. That’s the length of fencing you should buy. Fasten the ends with wire or three or four small chains snaps (available at any hardware store to make a circle).
Block or Brick Bin:
Compost buns can be made with bricks, cement blocks or rocks. Just lay the blocks without mortar. Leave spaces between each block to permit aeration. Pile them up to form three sides of a square container or a three-bin unit. This bin is sturdy, durable and easily accessible.
Covered wooden bins allow convenient protection from pests and heavy rains. Construct bins with removable fronts or sides so that materials can be easily turned. Old wooden pallets can be used for construction. Wire mesh can be used for construction. Wire mesh can be substituted for wooden sides to increase air flow. Prefabricated compost bins can also be purchased through most gardening catalogues.
Woody yard wastes, leaves and grass clippings can be used as mulch for weed control and water retention by simply spreading them beneath plants. For woody materials up to 1” in diameter, rent or purchase a chipper/shredder, or cut with hand tools. Tree Services, if they are in your neighborhood, often will deliver wood chips free. Chips can also be used for informal garden paths.
CAUTIONS: All yard wastes will work as mulch and for composting; however, do not use diseased or infested plants. The long term environmental impact of herbicides and pesticides is not fully understood. Grass clippings treated with these should not be used as mulch immediately after mowing, but should be composted. While a common practice, use of compost containing grass clippings that have been treated with herbicides and pesticides is not recommended for vegetable gardens.