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Compost in Three Phases

Updated on July 9, 2017

Compost in three phases, piles, containers, or whatever comes to mind. You can call it compost a, b, c, or 1,2,3, or crude, finer, finest. For the purposes of this article, I have made one, or the first, the crudest or least decomposed compost pile. So the third will be the closest to actually being compost.

The yard debris we collect, which might include grass clippings, dead flowers, and branches (small ones), are excellent in a pile, wood square, or metal fencing. This is usually the largest amount of waste we create with kitchen waste following close behind. This first phase is the beginning of the decomposing cycle and might even have some life in it. If you do not have space for the first phase compost container, not to worry because the second and third or even all three piles can be combined. If you do have the space, you can build a three or four-sided box with any wood available. On the other hand, you might want to go with fence wire, which can be reinforced with fence posts, or not. Several designs can be found online. It is not necessary to spend lots of money on this container because it is about function and not form. It is likely going to go behind the garage or bushes that hide other unsightly yard things. Or, it might just sit out there for the world to see.

Grass Clippings

Phase one wire container by buckleup compost at
Phase one wire container by buckleup compost at

The grass clippings can end up being too much material for the smaller containers and does an excellent job heating up the other items added to the primary compost container. Many people throw food scraps in with the yard waste and just as many people separate one from the other because of dogs, rats, raccoons, and any other interested parties.

Phase One Wood Composter by at
Phase One Wood Composter by at

That pile can sit and cook. Turning or mixing will increase the decomposition, which means you will get to harvest compost sooner. However, even if you ignore the big pile, the process continues. Handy, eh?

Second Composter

Phase two or three container by retiredperson at
Phase two or three container by retiredperson at

The second compost container can be for food (if it isn’t on the first pile already) and yard waste. The contents in this container are made up of black muckity muck (that is probably fragrant – or even disgusting), you get from the middle of the first pile. When harvesting the black gold, purge all the sticks and avocado pits that are decomposing on a slower schedule. Combine the clean black/brown stuff with dry leaves or straw for the brown part and fresh, green yard and food waste. There is an ideal you are trying to reach with dry, wet, and water. If it is too dry, the decomposing stops. When too wet it gets smelly.

The second container needs to be turned and loved. You can continue to add green and brown waste, but avoid adding large waste. The big stuff can go into phase one. However, if you put something big in the second container, not a major issue because you are going to clean it again.

Third Container

Container three has the decomposed stuff taken from container two with all big pieces removed.  Combine this part with soil, add water, stir, and before you know it, it is time to harvest the compost.  The container you choose for phases two and three can be identical.  It is just helpful to separate the nearly completed composted from the material needing more decomposing time.

With each phase the debris shrinks, shrinks, and shrinks again.  The actual amount you will end up with might be a bit of a shock, but it is much better to supplement your yard with the vitamin rich compost, than sending it to the landfill.

The following are my phases, but there are people out in the world who know an absolute ton on what to compost, nitrogen levels, how to measure, and much more.

What are your phases?

If you already have various compost piles, what do you call them?  If you do not have compost piles, what are you going to call them?


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