How To Make A Compost Pile Or Bin

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This article will teach you how to make your own compost bin.
by Brett · All Zones · Gardening Projects · 0 Comments · August 31, 2010 · 15,113 views

Veteran gardeners swear by compost, and for good reason. It's unrivaled for adding readily available nutrients and beneficial bacteria to vegetable garden soil, or adding to the back-fill mix when planting shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals, and container plantings, promoting healthy and vigorous growth of plants. It can be very useful anywhere in landscape or garden beds as a nutritional mulch. Plus, compost is an environmentally smart way to turn household food waste and vegetative landscape and garden waste into something besides a bulge in your garbage bag.

There are several ways to make compost. You can buy a composter or you can make your own compost pile or bin.

Making A Compost PileCompost Pile

Making your own compost is most simply done with a compost "pile," which involves little more than piling up leaves, clippings, kitchen scraps and other materials into a heap, and waiting for it to ferment. To get the best results in your compost pile, shred leaves up. Layer with other types of materials, especially manure, green weeds or grass clippings, or add a nitrogen supplement such as cottonseed meal, bone meal or dried blood.

Start by picking out a location for your compost pile. Since it won't be the most attractive thing in the world pick an inconspicuous spot.

Begin the compost pile/heap by heaping up about 12 inches of organic matter (kitchen scraps, leaves, yard waste, etc.) in a pile that is 5 or 6 feet wide. Then apply 1 to 2 pounds of high-nitrogen organic fertilizer such as dried blood, guano, or poultry manure. Optionally, you can add 2 inches of soil.

Continue building the compost pile in this layered fashion as you generate organic matter. The center of the pile should be concave to hold rain water. The center of the pile should begin to heat up within a couple of weeks. The composting process should be complete within two to three months, depending on material and outside temperature.

Large material such as tree limbs, corn stalks, etc., should be chopped into smaller pieces to facilitate decomposition. Some materials, such as lawn clippings, will decompose very rapidly; others will require turning the compost pile (which aerates the pile) and adding more high-nitrogen organic fertilizer. This will restart the heating and decomposition process. Keep the pile moist and turn it over frequently, maybe once every two to three weeks.

Making A Compost BinCompost Pile

If you have an aesthetic sense, you might prefer building a compost bin. A compost bin is also fairly simple to make.

Here's a list of materials you might need for building a 4-feet by 4-feet by three-feet height wooden or wire-mesh compost bin:

  • Options for Sidewalls:

    • 4 Pallets (Usually can be found at hardware or building supply stores, grocery stores, or garden centers) or
    • 1x6 Lumber (Make sure to buy cedar or cypress as these woods hold up better and longer against the weather and elements) or
    • Wire Hardware Cloth (16 to 20 feet of 3 feet height)
  • Four 4x4 corner posts cut to 5-foot length. Fenceposts and landscape timbers work good too.

  • Nails or wire to attach the sidewalls to the posts.
  • Metal hinges or latches for the removable door or wall. (One wall needs to be removable for access to "turn" the compost from time to time.)

Constructing The Compost Bin

STEP 1 - Choose a level site that is preferably shady, has good drainage, and is easily accessible.

STEP 2 - Install the 4 corner posts, which should be about 4-5 feet in length (5 feet if you want to bury the posts 2 feet under the ground). Space the corner posts at 4 foot apart in a square. Dig holes with post hole diggers to a depth of 12-24 inches so that 3 feet of the post will be above ground. Place post in hole and back fill with soil tamping as you go. For better stability, you can set the posts with concrete or Sakrete if you like.

STEP 3 - Attach pallets, boards, or hardware cloth to three sides with nails or wire. Attach 4th sidewall with hinges or latches so that it will be removable or so you can open it. If using 1"x6" boards for the sides leave small gaps between each board so that the pile can breath. This helps speed up the composting process. You won't be putting a top on your compost bin. Leave it open as rain helps speed up the composting process.

You are finished building your compost bin. Now it's time to start making some compost!

Making Compost With Your New Compost Bin

STEP 1 - Add about a foot or so of leaves, lawn clippings, shredded paper, kitchen scraps, cow or horse manure and other composting material you can find to begin the composting process. Then apply 1 to 2 pounds of high-nitrogen organic fertilizer such as blood meal, guano, or poultry manure. Finally, add 2 inches of soil.

STEP 2 - After about 3 weeks turn the mixture good with a shovel or pitchfork. Do so again about every 2 to 3 weeks or so. If the mixture seems too dry hose it down. When the matter is uniform brown, crumbles, and is odorless, it is ready for use in the landscape or garden.


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