The Easy as Compost Pile
Selecting a spot
The most important part of starting a compost pile is to pick a suitable location. You will want to choose a spot that is dry so as not to have your pile sitting in a pool of water or gaining excess water. This slows down the process of decomposition and can promote the growth of unhealthy microorganisms in your pile.
You also want to choose some where that is not in direct sunlight for more than a couple of hours a day. If the pile gets too much sun it will dry out too fast which will also slow down the decomposition rate. As with all methods of composting you will need to keep the correct amount of greens and brown in your pile too keep the carbon nitrogen balance even.
Preparing the spot
If your pile is going to be in the same place for a long time then you don’t have to worry about doing much to prepare the spot. Just throw down a base layer of a couple of inches of dirt, hay or leaves and you’re on your way. Many people like to build a couple of walls around their pile so as to deter animals and keep it contained but it’s not a necessity. If you wish to do this then I would recommend going to your nearest large grocery store and getting some used pallets, they work great and are usually the perfect size.
Also, if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, I would recommend getting something that you can use as a lid for your pile. A tarp works great for this as you don’t want your pile to turn into a pile of mud and food scraps. That is sure to attract animals and other unwanted things.
If your pile is not going to be in the same place for long (less than a year or two) you might want to consider putting a tarp or something removable down on the bottom for easier clean up when your done. You might also consider bin composting as an alternative.
What to add to the pile
This is the easy part; you can add pretty much any organic matter to your pile that you want. Coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, yard waste, grass clippings, manure, wood chips, leaf litter…the possibilities are endless. Check out my other articles about composting to get a list of what to add and what each thing is good for.
I have talked to many people about what they like to add to their piles and some of the more controversial organics include eggshells and manure. Some people don’t like to add eggshells because they think that they take too long to decompose but I always throw my eggshells in the pile and have had no bad results at all. When it comes to manure, just make sure not to throw your house pet’s waste or your own waste in the pile. Horse and cow manure is acceptable but if you put anything else in, you are promoting the growth of unhealthy microorganism and run the risk of contaminating the pile and your garden when you use the compost. There is a whole separate process for what is known as humanure you can read about here.
Creating Black Gold: more complicated than you need to get but good information
Maintaining the pile
You wont have to do much to maintain your pile. Just make sure to turn it about once a week in order to mix up the soil and to get oxygen and other nutrients to all parts of the pile. The composting process can take anywhere from two months to two years but it will go much faster if you routinely aerate. If the pile begins to look a little dry, add some water.
You will know that your pile is done composting when the dirt turns a deep rich black/brown and smells like fresh earth. At this point its all up to you what you use it for. Spread in on your garden, put it into pots to grow in your house, you could even bag it up and give it away to neighbors if you want. Its all up to you.
For those of you that don't garden a lot and have no use for compost or simply think that compost is overrated and will only attract unwanted pests and bacteria, watch this video. This is one of the more amazing things I have ever seen, I never would have thought of using compost for this but thats what the internet is for; sharing great ideas!
The power of compost
Remember, composting takes place in nature in many, many different forms so nothings is "right". As long as you have the basic elements: organic matter, microorganisms and the correct nutrient balance, you will make compost so feel free to experiment and see what works best for you area!!!!