Create a compost pile to get free fertilizer from your kitchen and your yard for your vegetable garden. All you have to do is set up the compost pile in a corner of your yard, and keep a compost bucket in a convenient spot in your kitchen or garage for collecting scraps.
Essentially, a compost pile is a pile of stuff – grass clippings, leaves, eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, dead flowers and their stalks. Almost all yard waste can go into a compost pile except for rose leaves and diseased leaves that have come in contact with rose leaves or plants. A compost pile may not get hot enough to kill the fungi carried on these leaves making it possible to spread diseases to other plants in the yard via the compost.
What about the smell? Well, besides an earthy smell, there is no smelly compost pile. In fact, if your compost pile is smells bad, then you may have added cooking oil and meat. These two food items never go into a compost pile. They usually break down very slowly, and they may attract extremely undesirable animals. Always think of the plant kingdom when adding materials to your compost pile.
Collection Bucket for Compost Pile
To collect foodwaste for the compost pile, we keep a plastic bucket with a lid on our kitchen counter near the food preparation area. Given the size of our family, we produce a lot of food scraps weekly. Eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings go into the compost bucket. After we empty the compost bucket, we wash it out with Dawn and hot water to prevent the smells from collecting in the plastic.
Never put in meat scraps or anything with oil in it. These will take forever to break down, smell badly, and attract rodents and wildlife to your pile. Your neighbors won’t be very pleased.
How to Build the Compost Pile
You can set up a basic compost pile with cinder blocks or wooden crates. I recommend having at least 2 bins. One bin holds the current collection of waste which needs to break down, and the other bin holds an older pile almost ready to use. You can use a rotating barrel compost, though it has several drawbacks. A barrel will hold much less than a bin. It will not receive the same moisture that an open compost pile would, nor can it be re-sized to accommodate more compost.
A compost pile works best with a ratio of 25:1 of carbon to nitrogen. When building a pile, layer lots of dry materials like dead leaves, straw, and wood chips, with smaller layers of wet materials such as grass clippings and fruit and vegetable peelings. If the pile seems dry and doesn’t appear to be breaking down, add water or turn the pile right before it rains to add moisture to the pile. If the pile is too wet and slimy, add more dry materials or some cornstalks to aerate the pile.
Turning the pile on a regular basis ensures that the materials will break down quickly. The microorganisms eating the materials need oxygen to live. Turning the pile gets air back into the materials. However, a well-built pile can be left to break down by itself with a few turns during the year.
Tools for Building a Compost Pile
- Shovel or pitchfork
- Compost bucket
- Wheel barrow for transporting materials
- Shredder – optional. However, using a shredder to reduce materials to smaller sizes will help them break down faster during the decomposition process
Starting a compost pile isn’t rocket science. It just takes a willingness to work with the materials, patience for the amount of time involved, and a collection bucket for kitchen scraps. Feeding your compost pile feeds your garden which feeds your family with fresh, organic food. What’s not to like?