How to Make a Compost Pile & What to Compost

Unless you’re using a commercial container for composting, a rough guide is to aim for a finished heap at around 1m (or 1 yard) cubed. Once you reach your finished size cover your pile with carpet or plastic sheeting to keep the worst of the weather off and leave your heap to do its stuff for six months to a year.

If you’re using any kind of manure leave the heap for at least a year before putting it onto your soil. If the heap is working well all pathogens contained in the manure will have been long gone in around three months but its easier to wait longer and not have to worry!

Ensure your compost heap is pet-proof.

Make sure the heap is built with a mixture of items so it remains aerated throughout due to the different sizes and types of particles within it. If you’re likely to have a surplus of one item such as grass clippings make a separate pile of this which you can then add at intervals onto the heap. Try to aim for a layered approach to the compost heap such as some kitchen scraps followed by lawn clippings, paper, dog waste, ash etc.

If you live in a dry climate add water / urine / washing up water to the heap. The compost heap is full of living organisms so it needs to be moist. Likewise if you live in a wet climate cover the heap to prevent all those living organisms drowning.

Be sensible. You’re adding things that are starting to break down – food scraps, animal waste, so observe basic hygiene at all times – keep the kids occupied somewhere else and wash your hands!

It is good practice to cover anything animals might find interesting within the heap. So either dig a small hole whenever adding kitchen waste etc or keep a batch of weeds / law clippings / straw etc to cover the interesting stuff whenever you add it. This will deter animal and insect pests. If you leave a piece of leftover roast chicken breast on the top of your compost heap you would expect a few birds, flies, cats and dogs to take an interest so cover up the interesting stuff! This will also keep the smells in.

Your finished compost will smell like rich woodland soil, crumbly and dark. But obviously if you’re adding poo to your pile you don’t want the smell of poo around before the composting action gets going. So cover up or bury within the heap, all the smelly stuff!

Once you add your own made compost to your garden you’ll never want to buy another bag of the shop bought stuff again and you’ll love have less household waste to dispose of elsewhere. So go on get composting. It is the most basic method of reducing waste and recycling. Mother Nature’s always done it and now, so should we.

The Catalan Gardener.

For more interesting articles on composting, manure and organic gardening visit http://www.catalangarden.com

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