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How to make a compost heap in the garden

Updated on February 12, 2013

Compost piles are a great way to produce nutrient rich home compost soil. They're also a fantastic way to recycle garden and kitchen waste and save money. It's great to know that organic waste that would have other wise been thrown away is being put to good use.

The easiest way to start a compost heap is by making a pile - of rubbish. Find a secluded spot in the garden that is fairly shaded and stays quite damp throughout the year. These conditions speed up the degrading process. Ensure that this spot is away from the house or areas of the garden where people eat food. In hot weather the compost heap can sometimes become smelly and attract flies so it's important that it's not too close to people.

Leaves that have fallen from the trees and grass cuttings make an excellent base for the compost heap. Rake up whatever is loose in the garden and drop it onto a pile. Make the pile fairly small to start with. After a few weeks the grass and leaves will start to bio-degrade and the pile will become smaller. Now it's very important to keep the pile ''topped-up'' with other waste.

As the layers of waste on the pile increase the garden rubbish that was at the bottom will start to turn to compost. This usually takes around six-months. Insects break down the waste and eventually compost is left. The compost heap will start to generate heat from all the chemical activity that's going on.

Other garden waste that can be added to the heap include twigs, dead flowers, fruit that has fallen from the trees, old roots and even animal manure. When it comes to wood, the larger the item the longer it takes to degrade. A huge log may take decades to rot. They can be added to the compost heap though if they're chopped into pieces. Basically, anything natural that has come from the garden can be used to make compost

Other great additions to the compost heap can come from the kicthen. Organic food waste such as potato peelings, cabbage leafs, carrot tops and mushroom stalks are fantastic sources of nutrients that would otherwise have been thrown out. Egg shells and even tea bags - tea leaves are natural - can also be added to the compost heap. The same rule applies here as it did to garden waste - anything that's naturally and has originally come from the soil can go back into it.

The basis of the compost heap should be waste that is found in large quantites such as grass cuttings and leaves. These break down much quicker than other organic wastes and they provide a stable structure for the heap.

The idea behind the compost heap is that it is an ongoing - and constantly living - part of the garden. It should provide a constant source of compost. Whenever fresh soil is needed it can simply be dug up from the bottom of the heap while the waste at the top of the pile continues to rot and bio-degrade.

A well compost heap needs to be tended to regularly with a garden fork. It's shape should be kept in check and it should remain sturdy to avoid the wind blowing it away. Inside the heap there should be a hive of insect activity with ants, worms, woodlice, earwigs and spiders - not to mention the hundreds of microscopic creepy-crawlies - all eating away at the waste.

There are several other ways to keep a compost heap in shape. Many people may use wooden boxes, bins, concrete platforms or polythene sheets as structures to help make the compost. Exactly the same ingredients are used and the same process takes place in these ''compost bins'' as happens in compost hips.

Numerous products that speed up the degrading process of the waste are available from garden centres and hardware stores. However, these are not always necessary as all the waste will be broken down into compost eventually. These products can also contain chemicals which will eventually go back into the soil. To keep the compost heap totally organic it is not reccomended that these products are used.

This kind of compost heap will produce excellent quality organic soul that's rich in nutrients. It can be re-used and re-cycled in the garden to produce lovely healthy plants.


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    • putnut profile image

      putnut 5 years ago from Central Illinois or wherever else I am at the moment.

      been an organic composter for decades, but turning the pile gets harder when you are older. good info.

    • profile image

      lolz 6 years ago

      hey mea tik

    • profile image

      neti 6 years ago


    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 6 years ago from England

      Hey prairieprincess, I harvested a compost heap earlier this year and the soil was incredible. I put it onto a vegetable patch. Good luck with your compost.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Loved this informative hub! I have been composting for about three years now. We just started a new bin in our new yard and home. It's a bit slow going but it will come. I like your advice about making the leave cuttings the main source. I have to remember to do this. Voted up useful and awesome. Take care!

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 7 years ago from England

      Very true, John B Bad. They're great fun, too, and an essential for gardeners.

    • John B Badd profile image

      John B Badd 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      The compost heap is a great way to get your own organic soil and lower waste.