7 Steps to Building a Compost Heap
Don't Let It Go to Waste
Been thinking about composting? It can make or break your garden. Compost is decomposed organic matter that helps soil hold water, controls erosion, protects plants against disease, lures soil-enriching earthworms, and ferries minerals from the subsoil. Here, we break down the seven-step process on how to get started from the "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook."
Pick Your Placement
Choose a location for your bin that has good drainage and at least partial sunlight. Place the bin 8 to 12 inches away from fences, decks, and buildings to discourage pests.
Pile It On
Line the bottom of the bin with 6 inches of cornstalks, coarse twigs, or chopped brush. Add a few inches of "green" (think fruit and vegetable scraps, flowers, etc.), then twice as much "brown" material (think fallen leaves, paper egg cartons, straw, etc.). Sprinkle with well-rotted farm-animal manure or garden soil. Continue building in layers, poking holes for aeration, and keeping the top slightly concave to catch rain.
Keep It Green
Always cover exposed food matter with a layer of dried leaves or grass clippings. This will help reduce any odors that may attract pests.
Turn It Over (Again and Again)
As compost "cooks" and reduces, turn the pile with a compost fork every few days, and keep adding more layers.
Watch Your Water
The pile should always be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Too much or too little water can slow down or even stop the composting process. Water the pile with a hose or cover with a tarp during heavy rain, as necessary.
A Decomposing Don't
Never compost meats, fish, animal products, oils, bones, fatty foods such as peanut butter, or pet manure. Although they will decompose eventually, they will cause a foul odor and attract pests.
Keep It Growing Across Seasons
You can compost year-round, although during the winter months you will be generating more food waste than yard waste. To maintain a proper carbon/nitrogen balance, you need to find a constant source of carbon to mix with the food waste.