November 8, 2011

How to Make a Compost Pile

How to start a Compost Pile

With fall coming to an end and winter at our doorstep, now is the time to make a compost pile. This post will teach you how to build a compost pile and will include some tips, tricks, and other useful information to keep in mind as you go about this process!

Make Use of Your Fall Leaves

Composting allows decomposed materials to be reused as a nutritious supplement for your garden, lawn, and house plants. A variety of elements may be used.

Materials for the compost pile are broadly divided into two categories, Green or nitrogen rich materials and brown or carbon rich materials.
  1. Green materials include fruit and vegetable peelings, lawn clilppings, plant cuttings, hair, coffee grounds, and animal manure(not recommended).
  2. Brown or carbon rich materials include dead leaves, twigs, paper, hay, dried plants, and woody cuttings. Autumn settling in and the leaves filling your yard is a perfect time to begin composting.
Composting provides a useful and environmentally conscious alternative to bagging up your leaves and sending them away as waste. Once you begin the process, it can become a part of your annual seasonal routine.

Pick a Spot

The location for your compost pile is important. When you make your compost pile, you want to make sure you have plenty of space. The pile should be at least 4 feet wide and 4 feet deep. It will be best if you create the pile near a water source which can be your garden hose, sprinkler, or Orbit drip irrigation system. It is best not to place the pile directly under a tree as the roots of the tree may interfere with the pile.

Constructing the Pile

  1. Start with a layer of carbon materials about 4-6 inches thick, then add nitrogen rich materials.
  2. Add a layer of soil.
    • If available, this is where you would add a layer of Compost Assist.
  3. Turn the pile using a pitchfork or compost aerator, moving the outer layer to the center, and continue layering and turning until the pile is completed.
Don't worry too much about getting technical with the construction of the pile but it will be beneficial if you layer the materials, give the pile plenty of space, and keep it damp and also stirred regularly.

Things to Consider when Making your Compost Pile

Keep these composting tips and tricks in mind when building your compost pile:
  • Shred the leaves prior to adding them to your pile. This helps speed up the composting process. You can shred them by raking dry leaves into a pile and them mowing them with a mulch mower.
  • Size matters. Your leaf pile should be four to 10 feet around and three to five feet high. A correct pile size ensures proper temperature and air flow needed for composting.
  • Do not compress your pile.
  • Do not compost meats or pet droppings. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only.
  • Turn your pile as often as you can. Each time you turn it will speed up the process.
  • Keep your compost damp but not wet. As you add material to your pile make sure that each layer is moist as it is added. During the summer your pile will dry out and the composting process will slow down.
  • Bugs are O.K.
  • Got too much material to compost? Make a second or third pile. Stop adding material to a pile that is underway and start a new pile. This will insure you get a chance to use the compost this season.
Have fun with it! Good luck with making your compost pile and be sure to comment with any questions or tell us how it went for you!


Phil Goold is a retired landscaper of 30 years. He loves being outside more than anything else, except maybe pie. He enjoys connecting with other landscapers and gardeners because everyone brings something new and fun to the table. Connect with Phil on Twitter and Google+.

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