Double or Triple Heap composting: The most popular way to compost is called Double (or Triple) Heap Composting. Also referred to as "cold" composting, it is a slow but practical method to produce compost and requires little effort on your part. Start by building one compost heap to which you gradually add kitchen scraps, weeds that haven't gone to seed, tree trimmings, and garden wastes until the heap stands 3 feet high. This may take several weeks. Each time you add new materials to the heap, turn it to mix and moisten the existing materials. When the first pile reaches 3 feet high, start a new one right next to it. Each time you add materials to this pile, cover it with a shovelful or two of almost-finished compost from the first heap. This way you are constantly adding your own custom-grown "activator" to your compost. If you want to, add a third pile into the mix so you have three piles in various stages of progress. When you need compost for your garden, take the finished product from your oldest heap.
Quick fixes for "cold" compost: If your cold pile seems too slow, try these remedies to jump start the decomposition process:
"Cooking" the pile: Start by layering equal amounts of brown and green organic matter until you create a compost pile that is 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide (each layer should be 4 to 6 inches thick). Moisten the pile as you build it and allow it to sit for three days. Then use a pitchfork to turn and re-moisten the pile. As you turn it, try to move the material from the outside of the pile to the inside of the pile. Turn the pile again five days later. At this point you should feel heat radiating from the pile as you turn it. Wait one week and turn the pile again. After the third turning the temperature of the pile should be sufficient to create finished compost in another 4 to 6 weeks.
50% Brown Matter (carbon-rich, dry) Including:
30% Green Matter (nitrogen-rich, moist) Including:
10% Garden soil
5% High nitrogen fertilizer
Problem: The pile smells like sulfur.
Cause: A pile that smells like "rotten eggs" is either too wet, or lacks oxygen.
Solution: Aerate the pile by turning it over and letting it dry out a bit, and then add more dry materials.
Problem: The pile smells like ammonia.
Cause: This is usually due to fermenting food scraps lying on top of the pile.
Solution: Turn the pile and add additional carbon-rich (brown) material such as leaves.
Problem: The pile smells like sewage and is attracting flies.
Causes: This is most likely the result of too much nitrogen.
Solution: Turn the scraps to the center of pile, and cover them with a layer of garden soil or brown matter.
By Ellen Brown
Deb in MI
The enclosure should measure at least 3' x 3' x 3' for efficient composting. For square shaped enclosure may need supports if you're using wire mesh fencing. You can use metal fence posts to anchor the corners or build 4 simple "picture frames" from 2 x 4s to attach the mesh fencing to. Hinge the frames together with door hinges and make a square box. It's not necessary to enclose the bottom.
A small round enclosure made of snow fence will need little or no support. If you use bricks or concrete blocks to build an enclosure, there is no need to use mortar, but you will need to leave enough space between the blocks to allow for adequate air movement.
If you use lumber for any part of the enclosure, you can expect to replace it every few years as decay sets in. Treated lumber may last longer, but it can also leech harmful chemicals into the soil and compost.
Still another idea is to use a 55-gallon barrel (drum) with a hinged lid. You'll need to drill or hammer several rows of _ inch air holes in the sides and bottom. The barrel should sit on concrete blocks to allow for air circulation.
For maximum efficiency, the compost pile needs to consist of the right carbon/nitrogen (brown to green) ratio (between 25:1 to 30:1). If your bin is not completely enclosed on the bottom, use the following recipe:
As you build the pile, water each layer until it's damp (like a wrung out sponge). Continue to add layers as you accumulate them, adding a thin layer of soil to the top of green layers and making sure the whole pile stays moist. Turn the pile with a shovel every few weeks to add air to the pile.
Composting doesn't have to be complicated. There are really no hard and fast rules, but here are some tips for getting started.
Find a convenient place near your garden to start a pile. Avoid low-lying areas. You don't want your pile to stand in water.
A compost pile needs to be large enough to hold in heat and moisture, but small enough to allow air into the center. An ideal size is 3 ft. by 3 ft. by 3 ft. This will give you 1 cubic yard of composting space. Piles smaller than this will work, too, just keep in mind that they have a tendency to dry out faster, which slows down the process.
You can enclose your compost heap using any number of available materials: straw bales, wire or wood fencing, blocks or cement bricks, stones, boards or scrap lumber. If you decide to go with wood, use the cheap stuff because rotting compost will eventually rot the wood and it will just have to be replaced. If you want something a little more fancy, there are a dizzying array of prefabricated bins and barrels available, too. You can also search for do-it-yourself plans online that you can customize to your own tastes.
Now all you need to do is start adding the compost. Each time you add some compost it's a great idea to toss a small bit of dirt on top (this adds the bacteria and microbes that do all the work) and sprinkle the pile with a bit of water. You'll want to keep the pile slightly damp, but not overly wet. Every week or so, use a pitchfork or shovel to turn over the pile. This allows air to circulate throughout the pile and along with a bit of moisture, keeps the decomposing process in high gear. Everything will break down eventually, but some people find it more convenient to shred or chop items to reduce their size before adding them to the pile. This also makes the process move along more quickly.
A good ratio organic matter for optimal composting:
It's best to avoid composting animal products (meat, fish, poultry, fat, bones, eggs, and dairy). They tend to smell. Avoid vegetable oils and do not compost plastics or synthetic fibers.
Keeping Your Compost Pile Trouble-Free
By Ellen Brown
I need some ideas to start an economical compost pile.
Hardiness Zone: 8a
By Joy from Slidell, LA
I started my compost by purchasing several bags of inexpensive dirt from Home Depot. I think they were on sale for about 3 bucks a bag. I have a Ninja blender that I use to chop up all the peelings, ends of zucchini and squash, apple cores, egg shells and etc. It's all chopped really fine and composts fast. The critters don't pay any attention to my compost pile cuz the pieces are so small they just disintergrate into good dirt.
The only thing I wanted for Christmas last year was a pitchfork with the wide straight tines so I could turn my compost pile more easily. I got one...all wrapped in Christmas paper and a big bow! I was a happy girl! (My friends thought I was nuts to ask for a pitchfork, but they just don't understand.......)
I also went to a local store that sells live worms for fishing bait and bought a container and set them free in my compost pile!! No harm in helping the worm population get started. *L* Beats the heck out of getting impaled on a hook!
Can anyone tell us what do you use to start a compost bed? We are trying to start a compost but are not sure what to put in it. Thanks in advance for all your help.
Hardiness Zone: 9a
Hope this helps. ~Janette~ (04/05/2009)
Starbucks gives away coffee grounds, they are GREAT in compost.
I cold compost too, but you'll get results much faster if you cut it all into small pieces. I find this is just too much trouble, but it is a good idea.
I've even read that you can put your food scraps in a blender with water and dump it right on the garden. Anybody try that? I think it would work if it was blended so well that animals wouldn't be interested in it. Again, more trouble so I don't do it. (04/05/2009)
I learned a lot by googling a search for how to make compost. It isn't hard and it is a great way to recycle. (04/06/2009)