How To Build Compost Pile

Now that we’ve covered what are compost pile ingredients  (see previous posts), let’s look at what must be done to build a hot compost pile.

How To Build Your Compost Pile:

1. Before you actually begin to build a hot compost pile, gather an equal amount of both “green” and “brown” ingredients, (see post on “Compost Pile Ingredients“).

Your goal is to have enough to make a compost pile measuring at least 1 meter (3 feet) high, 1 meter (3 feet) wide, and 1 meter (3 feet) long.

Why build a pile 3 ft by 3 ft by 3 ft?

A much larger pile is more likely to compact, shutting out air, and is more difficult to work with.

A smaller pile won’t generate or retain enough heat to effectively kill any harmful bacteria present.

(Note: If you choose healthy ingredients to compost, and keep pets and pests out, there’s no reason for concern.)

2. The next step before actually building your hot compost pile is to chop or shred as much of the material as possible into small pieces for two reasons:

a) Shredded materials make a better home for decomposer organisms because that gives the organisms more surface area to work on.

B) A shredded pile is also better insulated, has more pockets for air, and retains moisture more easily. The finer the pieces, the faster your compost will heat up thus achieve the end results more quickly.

How to shred:

Dry materials such as leaves can be run through a shredder or under a lawn mower.
(In the fall, I’ve used my composting lawn mower to shred withering plant leftovers such as tomato stalks, yellow beans stalks and others. I just spread the stalks thinly over the lawn then ran my composting lawn mower over the material.)

A whipper-snipper in a garbage can works well too — like a big blender.

3. Now that you’ve gathered and shredded or chopped the necessary ingredients, you are ready to build your hot compost pile. To begin your hot compost pile, first create your first 150 cm (6 inches) of well-watered “browns” and “greens” by putting one layer of browns, one layer of greens, another layer of browns etc until you have built up your pile to about 150 cm (6 inches). Then mix all these greens and browns together well. This is your base.

4. Continue that procedure of alternating by adding one layer of brown ingredients followed by another layer of green ingredients, followed by another layer of browns, and so on. As you alternate each layer, mix the layers and add water as needed until the pile is at least 1 meter (3 feet) high. (Note: the ingredients must end up being moist — not dripping wet.)

Why you must add the material in layers and then mix well?

Adding the material in layers simply helps you judge the right proportions of “browns” and “greens.” Thoroughly combining to have the proper mixture of moist browns and greens is what will help accelerate the decomposting procedure.

5. Once you’re done creating your hot compost pile, cover it to protect it from heavy rain, . . and wait. The compost should begin to heat up within hours.

To witness decomposition in action, you can stick a metal rod into the center of the pile for a few minutes then check to see if it has warmed up. You can also use a compost thermometer which you should find at garden centers, or you can mount a meat thermometer at the end of a stick if you want precise temperature readings.

If you see vapor emerging from aeration holes and a fine gray fungus just under the surface, you know you have built an active”hot” compost pile. Congratulations!

On the next post, I will continue this topic by talking about Compost Activators.

Meanwhile, enjoy the sun but be careful for sunburns.

Stay healthy! Be happy!

Marcie

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