The Q&A Archives: Composting

Question: How do I start a compost bin/pile?

Answer: If you have space and do not mind the looks, you can simply pile up your ingredients into a heap. You need to have enough material to make a pile at least three feet high, three feet wide, and three feet across in order to actively compost. Many gardeners will run three piles, one in process, one finished, and one in the collecting stage.

If you would prefer to contain it, you can use many different ways to do that. A simple method is to form a cylinder out of wire mesh. There are also kits available as well as plastic bins with lids. The bins are especially useful if you have animal problems or if you need a very tidy look.

As ingredients, collect organic materials such as herbicide free grass clippings, pulled weeds, garden trimmings, kitchen vegetable scraps, autumn leaves, and so on. Try for a balance of fresh "green" material (high in nitrogen) such as grass clippings and "brown" material (higher in carbon) such as the autumn leaves.

If you are content to be a casual composter, simply assemble the ingredients and be prepared to wait until they compost or break down into a crumbly black material; in an open pile this can take a year or longer. If you wish to be more active, you can turn your compost or remix it to stimulate the process and you can fine tune your ingredients to accelerate the process as well. Chopping the ingredients also makes the process speed up.

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