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Do you want to know what the best free fertilizer for your organic garden is?
It’s compost! Learning how to start a compost pile in your backyard is one of the best things you can do for your garden.
I love that making compost is so easy to, after all, I’m a busy mom but I love to grow organic food for my family. If growing a wonderful garden can be easy, I’m not going to say no to that!
It also saves you a lot of money when it comes to fertilizing your vegetable garden.
How To Start A Compost Pile
1 Where To Put Your Compost Pile
The first thing you want to think about when starting a compost pile is where you want to build it.
Shoveling and hauling compost to your garden can be a lot of work, so if it’s possible place your compost pile close to where your garden is.
If you can build the piles right on the edge of your garden. This will make your finished compost easily available right where you need to use it.
2 Should You Build A Compost Pile In The Sun Or Shade?
While it might be tempting to tuck your compost pile away in a shady back corner of your yard it will break down faster if you give it some sun.
It’s all about finding a balance. A compost pile in the shade will be cooler and take longer to break down. But a compost pile in the full sun may dry out faster and that will also slow down the decomposition.
Try to find an area of your yard that gets part sun and part shade.
3 Does A Compost Pile Need Water?
One important step of making homemade compost that is often overlooked is watering your compost pile.
While you don’t want the pile to become soaking wet, it does need to be moist.
It’s a good idea to cover the compost pile to keep the rain off. This will help you to prevent the nutrients from being leached out of the compost and keep the pile from getting too wet.
When you first start to add material to your compost pile water them lightly. Then if you notice that it’s dry when you turn it in a few weeks you can add a little more water.
4 How Big Should A Compost Pile Be?
If you’re wondering “How big should my compost pile be?” The best size for most home gardens is to make it 3 feet wide and 3 feet high.
A compost pile this size is large enough to reach a high temperature as it breaks down but small enough to be easy to turn over.
5 Gather Your Materials
Once you know where you are going to start your compost pile it’s time to gather materials to build it.
You’ll need to start with a layer of material that is rich in carbon. This is often called “browns” when people talk about composting.
You’ll need materials like straw, dead plants, dried leaves, sawdust, wood chips and shredded newspaper.
Next, you need to layer materials that are high in nitrogen. These are called the “greens”.
Greens for composting include materials like fruit and vegetable scraps, green garden clippings, grass clippings, and animal manure (not from dogs or cats).
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6 Building Your Compost Pile
Once you have your materials ready it’s time to start building your compost pile.
An old guideline for building compost piles is to use a ratio of 3 parts brown material to 1 part green material. I’m pretty relaxed about building our compost piles and never worry about having exact ratios and it always comes out great.
It’s best to start your compost right on beer ground so that the microbes and insects in the soil have access to the decaying material.
Place a layer 4 to 6 inches thick of brown material. This can be straw, dry leaves, or even shredded newspaper or cardboard. Then on top of that place 2 to 3 inches of green material.
If you want your compost pile to heat up really quick you can also add a thin layer of animal manure on top of the green layer before adding the next brown layer.
Remember to water the layers lightly before adding the next one.
Continue to add to the layers of your compost pile until it’s about 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall.
7 Should You Turn Your Compost Pile?
There are 2 basic ways of making compost. One is simply to layer your materials and leave it alone until it has finished breaking down on its own.
This composting method is perfectly fine and very easy to do! But it does take a long time, up to a year for a pile to break down into usable compost this way.
If you want to make compost that is ready sooner then you need to turn the compost pile over to mix it up.
About every two weeks it’s good to turn the compost pile. If you have a 2 or 3 bin compost area then simply use a garden fork to take the top of the pile and turn it over to the next bin so it’s on the bottom.
Continue doing this until the pile has been moved to the new compost bin.
If you only have 1 compost bin then use the garden fork to move the material in the center of the pile to the outer edge and the material on the outer edge into the center. You are basically stirring up the pile.
Turning the compost pile helps to add more oxygen and that helps to heat the pile back up and feed the microbes that are working hard to break it down for you.
Remember to add a little water if the pile is getting dry. If your compost pile gets too dry, it will stop decomposing properly. If you can see steam coming up from the pile when you turn it, you’ll know that it is breaking down properly.
You can build or buy a compost bin to hold your material instead of just making a heap. This will make it look nicer especially if you are living in town.
8 Using Compost
Once your compost has broken down into a rich, dark brown to black material it will have a lovely earthy smell. Then it’s ready to be added to your garden.
If you are using a no-dig gardening method then simply layer 2–3 inches of compost over the top of your garden beds. This is my favourite way to use compost in our gardens, it’s so easy!
If you are using a traditional tiling method. Then spread the compost over your garden and till it in to mix with your garden soil.
Compost is one of the best fertilizers and soil enhancers you can use in your backyard vegetable garden! Not to mention it’s really easy to build a compost pile and save yourself a lot of money on fertilizing your garden.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.