Fall may be the perfect time to start a compost pile. That’s when you’re most likely to have a natural balance of the best ingredients for good compost in your yard: an abundance of dead leaves and sticks, garden plants in the early stage of decay and the last grass clippings of the year. Of course, kitchen waste like fresh vegetable trimmings, uncooked egg shells and coffee grinds are great, too.
The first thing you need to do is to decide where you want your compost pile to be. Keep in mind that a compost pile isn’t something you can move around the yard very easily, so pick a spot that’s close to your garden and not in plain sight.
Next you’ll need to decide how you want to contain your compost pile. As with most things related to your home and garden, you can find very simple instructions online about how to build something on your own or you can purchase a more elaborate solution.
Build your compost
The basic elements to build compost with are green garden debris, grass clippings and brown elements. Brown elements include dry leaves and small twigs. Be careful not to add too many grass clippings as they can choke out the decomposition process.
The brown elements allow space for air to circulate so the best approach is to layer the green and brown debris with an overall mix of one part green to two parts brown. When you’re starting a new compost pile, it’s also a good idea to add some store bought compost or garden soil to the mix to jump start the process. A 3-cubic foot pile with a balance of these ingredients should heat up and breakdown quickly.
Tips for making rich compost
Too much moisture will keep your pile too cool and prevent it from breaking down. Too little moisture will slow down decomposition and keep it from heating up. If you think your compost pile is too dry, add some water to the center. If you think it’s too wet, add extra brown matter and mix it in.
Turn the pile regularly to improve airflow and keep it from getting compacted.
In addition to yard waste, only add fresh vegetable trimmings, uncooked egg shells and coffee grounds. Never add meat or fat trimmings because they won’t break down into usable compost and will attract unwanted animals to your yard.
When it’s ready
Compost is garden-ready when it is no longer hot and you can no longer identify any of the original stuff you added to the pile.
How to use it
Add a layer of compost to your soil before tilling and then turn it into your soil. You can also use partially composted material as mulch.
Hopefully this guide will help you start and maintain a productive compost bin in your yard. One the benefit of composting is that it’s environmentally friendly in that it keeps these materials out of landfills where they take longer to breakdown and thus create harmful gases. Add your composting tips to the comments below to make this a great resource for everyone.