Quick Guide to building your
Even Kids like to compost. Composting for kids is fun and educational too.
These composting instructions are for a hot compost pile. For more comprehensive directions and explanations on cold piles, earthworm compost and tumblers check out my Victory Garden ebook.
Your pile will need a mixture of brown and green material C/N (carbon and nitrogen) approximately 30:1 ratio by weight. By mass
it is approximately 12 inches of browns to 4 inches of greens.
What to use and what not to use in your compost:
1. Location for pile or bins
Choose a location near a water source as you will need to add
water as you make your pile. You should also have enough
room for two piles, as you will need to turn them and an area
for stacking up materials before they go into the pile. An area
approximately 10ft X 10ft should be large enough.
2. Pile Size
All hot piles should be at least 1 cubic yard which is
3ft tall and 3 ft on each side. They can be larger but if you get
above 2 cubic yards they will be very hard to turn by hand. The
size is needed for insulation and to provide enough materials
for the heat generating microbes to work efficiently.
Gather your materials and stack them up next to where you will
build your pile. For a hot pile it is important to build your pile
at one time so if you don’t have enough materials it is best to
stack them up in a holding area and wait until you have enough
for your pile. Make a separate pile of greens and browns. Make sure to shred or at least cut up tough garden refuse like corn stalks.
If you want to use kitchen waste it is not a good idea to just stock pile this as it is very stinky and attracts animals. If you want to incorporate kitchen waste in your piles you can make a cold pile layering your kitchen waste with browns and greens so that the waste is well covered. Using a bin with a tight lid is also a good idea. Build your pile slowly adding greens and browns each time you dump your kitchen waste. These piles are especially condusive to using earthworms to turn your pile. Here are some earthworm composting instructions . You can get Red Wigglers, the best worms for your compost piles at the "Organic Worm Farm".
For a hot pile that you will turn every two weeks or so it is best to build it in a flat spot directly on the earth. Bins also work well they are a little harder to turn.
1. Start with a clear area or bins about 4 ft sq and build your pile 3 ft sq. at its base and 3-5 ft tall.
2. First make an 8”- 12”layer of browns using your roughest browns first.
3. Spray lightly with a fine spray of water until moist but not wet.
4. Add a 2”- 4” layer of greens
5. Spray lightly with a fine spray of water until moist
6. Add a thin layer (1/4” layer is sufficient) of garden soil or compost
7. Pack the edges of the pile with a garden fork so that the edge is compact
8. Repeat step 2-7 making sure to pack the edges and to keep your pile square on top
9. When your pile reaches 5ft or you are over 3 ft and have used up your materials cap your pile off with a final layer of browns.
Your pile is ready to cook, within a few days the temperature will build up in your pile and should reach 130-160 degrees Fahrenheit . This will be sufficient to kill any soil pathogens and weed seeds. After a week or two the temperature will begin to cool. Your pile will also shrink dramatically as it settles and the decomposition process takes place. If it is a hot dry summer it is good to lightly water the top of the pile to help it retain moisture. On cooler or moist days this is unnecessary. After about two weeks it will be time to turn the pile.
5. Turning your pile
Repeat steps 1-8 of these composting instructions
Making sure that you get the drier parts of the pile that are on the top and outside into the center. When you build your pile try to avoid the natural tendency to have the pile end up like a cone. Packing the edges and
making sure to always add all the way to the edges will help in keeping your pile square or round.
Turn your pile approximately every two weeks or whenever the temperature decreases. You can buy a fancy compost thermometer or just open the pile and stick your hand in. If it is steaming and to hot to leave your hand in then it is not ready to turn. If it is cool or only slightly warm it is ready to turn.
If you turn your pile more often it will be ready sooner if you turn it less often it will just take longer but will still make fine compost. If you don't want to turn it at all it is a good ideas to add some earthworms (red worms are best) and let them do the turning.
6. Finished Compost
When your pile doesn’t heat up anymore, most of it should be a dark
color with an earthy smell. Your pile should look and smell like really nice garden soil.
It will be difficult to recognize any of the original ingredients although some bits of hard to decompose materials may still be present. If you are applying it to garden beds it can be considered finished even if there are some bits of straw, leaves or other hard to break down materials still visible as they will continue breaking down in the soil. If you are
using it for your seed flats you should make sure it is completely broken
down, looking just like fine soil. I like to use a 1/8" garden screen for my flat mixes.
When you take apart your pile you may find some parts of your pile are
perfect for seed flats, other parts look just right for your garden beds and some of the materials especially corn stalks, and some other forms of tough garden refuse may need another round in a new pile.
If you want to make 14 day compost you will need perfect materials and conditions and will need to turn it about every 4 days.
If you turn your pile every two weeks until it does not heat up any more you should have some beautiful compost in about 2 months or 4 turnings.
Learn how to make your own homemade compost bins Let me know if these composting instructions helped you make some great compost.