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Need to start a compost pile!

Gillette, WY

HI! I am at the point in my gardening career that I should probably start a compost pile. I do have a few random questions though. I don't think i want a bin, was thinking of just a pile on the east side of my shed. Should i just throw kitchen scraps and leaves and grass together in a pile and stir it once a week? Could it really be that simple? Should I cover it when it rains or all the time so it doesn't dry out?

Thumbnail by Jenn1980
central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Yes it can be that simple, you do not need to cover it, you would like some rain because you wouldn't want it to dry out.
When you don't have an enclosed one it will break down slower, though

there is a compost forum here that can answer all questions

Gillette, WY

Thank you, I was hoping someone would post a link. I didn't think it would take longer to breakdown without a container... that might sway me. My husband was not to keen on that idea anyways.

Thanks again!

Foxboro, MA

Worms are your friend. I added worms to my pile and they grew as fat as snakes! They break down the compost so much faster than just bacteria and time. Put your pile in the shade to keep it damp. I put mine behind the shed so I wouldnt have to look at it everyday and it was shaded. I no longer put corn cobs in my pile after I found the squirrels fighting over them.....

Gillette, WY

The more I learn the more I think I need a container. The only place in our yard I could have a big ugly smelly pile is in the sun, and that won't work! Thank you for your input

Greenfield, OH(Zone 6a)

I use a compost pile that I turn once (or twice) a year. There are folks who like to get all technical on nitrogen (green stuff) to carbon (brown stuff) ratios but I believe in doing in the way nature does it. Let whatever falls on it be the ratio.
I only have a pile so I can use the compost to grow potatoes in bins and I use the compost when I'm starting trees from seed in pots.
Otherwise, my main way to compost is directly in the garden. Either buried or just let it lay between the rows. Once again, I prefer mother nature doing most of the work. She battles me enough, she might as well help out once in awhile.

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Gillette, WY

Yes, yardener, I have noticed a lot of different "rules" for the compost pile/bin. I had a friend tell me there are certain plants that don't break down here, cause it doesn't get as warm. But, I'm going for it! Screw the rules! (for now)

My husband bought me a bin last night for 50$ at home depot. It's not in a permanent spot yet, but I already have a bucket full of kitchen scraps. It's supposed to rain here for the next 3 days, so I better get a move on it!

Looks like you have it figured out though, beautiful yard/garden!

Greenfield, OH(Zone 6a)

The most important thing is not to get discouraged. Gardening should be fun and relaxing. If you don't want to turn your compost pile every week, don't turn it. Experiment with everything you do. You may come up with your own set of rules.

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Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Amen to that Yardener.....about the only "rules" are those that the individual plant sets, ie grows in shade or sun, needs lots of water or a little, feed or not feed and what temps it will survive....the basics....all the rest is more personal observation/location rather than a hard and fast rule...and with compost...it will all eventually decompose...how fast is a matter of "choice"

Gillette, WY

Well I've been adding stuff to my bin for a couple days now, and I already know I will be a lazy compost person. We'll see what happens :)

It's been raining here, so we (my 3 yr old son and I) got a container ready to collect worms. We've been waiting for them to crawl around, but it may too cold for them since the rain has been turning to snow at times. But I think it would be fun to add them to the compost bin.

Great advice!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

So long as the worms have enough waste added and they can bury under it, they will survive rain, hail, snow and ice, I know, we have had all those conditions in the last week but now it's lovely sunshine.
If you have a compost BIN, the only rules are, it should have NO bottom to allow air and moisture to escape or you will end up with a smelly slime filled bin.

For a pile, it's best to have a cover as it speeds the composting up and keeps heat into the pile, this helps break down the waste and it helps if you either remove the cover every so often when it rains or, use the hose to water the pile, the cover also helps prevent the pile from spreading out-wards.

To make a cheap compost container either make a square using fence posts and wrap chicken wire around in a square throw all your dead plants (NO roots or seed-heads or they will regrow and germinate especially if they are weed seed heads / roots from Perennial weeds.
The other cheap way is to go to building site / yard and ask for 3-4 pallets, hammer four stout posts into the earth, nail the pallets to the posts and hey presto, you have a compost container for next to nothing, an old carpet, and old blanket folded and put into plastic bag makes a good lid for the container.
I like my compost bit close enough to the house where I collect most of my waste, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, all fruit / veg waste (UNCOOKED or you attract vermin) tissue paper, shredded news paper, lint from drier and vacuum cleaners, cardboard torn up, all garden waste and even pruning and grass cuttings, with the grass, don't add layers too thick or you prevent air circulating the compost and you may make it smell, add layers of pruning, news paper between the grass to allow air into the waste. you add anything you can lay your hands on even animal manures as the end product should be free from smell, look like a good brown (almost black) shop bought compost, it should crumble in your hand and not be too damp when ready.
if required, turn the composting stuff so the bottom stuff is brought to the top and the top is thrown back into the bottom, this can help speed up the composting but personally, I very rarely turn my compost, I never use it till the following year and ant bits that have not quite rotted get flung UNDER the soil to rot down further as I lay the lovely brown / black gold along my borders / Veg beds etc.
Theres no science, no hard work, no rules and no police to come and tell you to stop doing it. so go for it and enjoy. any large kitchen waste gets cut up smaller like Cabbage/ cauliflower leaves / stems etc, things like that just either cut throw them as you work or throw them into your electric food graters and this helps speed up the process too. Enjoy and happy composting, it becomes addictive ha, ha, ha.

Gillette, WY

Weenel, well shoot! My compost bin does have a bottom, It's like two flaps that come together, I believe there is holes in though. I suppose I'm also supposed to put it on ground! I only mention this cause the only level spot in my yard is on river rock. I could put in on the grass but 1) it wouldn't be level and 2) it would be in the sun. Maybe these two things don't matter especially if I have a lid? IDK. That would really suck to move that compost bin now, but I will do it if y'all tell me to!

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Typically compost bins do well in full sun as the heat helps to break things down more quickly, but even in shade, things will break down...just slower. It is always good to have some moisture in the bin for the same reasons. Dry stuff takes longer to become compost. As long as the unit has drainage, it won't matter if it is on river rock or dirt....bottom holes are fine...the only problem I see with being unlevel, is if the bin leans enough to tip over.

Good drainage and moisture are both fairly necessary if you are adding worms to the bin...worms thrive in moist(not wet or standing water) soil with lots of organic matter (leaves, veggie scraps, left over veggies, coffee grounds,egg shells, grass, etc). The basic NO NOs are meat scraps, bones, dairy products,oils, and animal feces (other than cow, horse, rabbit, goat, chicken)

Brillion, WI

I've had a compost pile for years. I started first just on the ground, but mice set up housekeeping. I then put up three pallets (you can get these free) and started adding kitchen scraps, leaves in the fall, dead plants....anything that was plant material. I don't put in any animal waste because I use this on my vegetable garden. It was hard to get to the bottom every spring to get the compost so last year I finally got hubby to attach two more. I now have a "throw over" after I get all the compost out. The greatest thing is I never have to buy "dirt." Since I'm relatively lazy I keep a Folgers plastic bucket ih the kitchen to add kitchen scraps. When it's full I run it out to the pile and throw it on. It doesn't stink up the kitchen except when I open it to add more scraps. They start decomposing while on the counter. So far this has worked the best for me. I rarely turn the pile, just remove the top in spring, dig out the compost, then fill it up again and wait for next year. If I was going to start a new bed I'd probably try the lasagna method. Sounds so fun!

Thumbnail by teko

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