I need some ideas to start an economical compost pile.
Hardiness Zone: 8a
By Joy from Slidell, LA
You can compost in a pile on the ground if you want to and you don't have pets or kiddos that will "get into it". As far as what goes into it, you don't have to spend any money really: peelings, leaves, etc.
You should have some sort of a can to put your items in to compose to keep critters out of it. All you need is to put vegetation matter in to the pile. No animal items such as meat,fat,milk etc. and the pile should be turned from time to time.
What the other two posters failed to mention is you want to turn your compost with dirt in it. You also should make it damp before you turn to get the moisture mixed into the compost. Don't soak it down though. Just make it damp.
I would suggest if you are not going to get something to turn your compost in that you get a couple buckets. Start your compost in one bucket till it is half full. Then dump the contents into another bucket sporadically with dirt. When the bucket is full set it aside till you have another half bucket. Now pour that bucket into a third bucket along with portions from the first bucket.
The bucket method is kind of difficult but do-able. What would be better is if you have a hole or a slight depression in the ground to pour and mix your dirt and compost materials. Make it damp and turn it as needed. Keep something heavy over the compost pile to prevent unwanted scavengers. My dad used to use his old bass boat and kept a tire on it to keep it in one place. Very few things would bother with it.
Check with your city waste services. Here in Phoenix, they take the big barrels used for trash pickup, when they are no longer usable for that, drill holes in them, remove the lids and sell them for a small amount ($10 the last time I bought them) and I think they also came with some kind of compost starter. Compost is black gold for the garden. Especially good in compost is coffee grounds as the worms love them and your soil loves the worms.
Even though your question and all these comments are about starting the pile, there is something I want to add to get a running start. Right this minute, start saving egg shells and all peels you make like from carrots, cukes, apples, celery etc. so they can be added to the pile once you start it. You can easily do this by taking an empty large coffee can, with a small hole punched into the plastic cover (for air), and having it right near the kitchen counter.
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!
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What are the dos and don'ts of composting? I know certain things can't go into it, but I can't remember what.
Hardiness Zone: 7a
By Sharon Rafferty from East Hampton, NY
Any plant materials can go into your compost (leaves, cut grass, deadheaded plants, tiny limbs; any vegetable scraps, fruit scraps and paper scraps from your kitchen. Just NO fats or meats of any kind. I even rescue worms from the rain (lying on the pavement) and put them into the pile. A lot just naturally show up. Even shredded newspaper is very good. It doesn't take very long for my pile to actually compost. Enjoy! (10/15/2009)
A good thing to help you get started is composted steer manure which you can buy from a gardening center. The idea is to layer brown materials with green materials. Brown materials are items such as dry leaves, straw, hay, shredded paper, newspaper, stale cereal grains, crackers, even cardboard boxes. Green materials are fresh greens, grass clippings, vegetable scraps and manure.
Ideally the compost pile should be about 4 feet x 4 feet, but to do that you have to have enough materials on hand from the start which I never do. I just start with a brown layer, throw on some manure, some soil for the microorganisms, then add my green layers as I take my vegetable scraps down to the pile every day. When there are enough scraps on top, then I add some more brown materials. Remember to add water as you go and then turn as frequently as is practical for you. The more you turn and the hotter the weather, the faster will be your composting... as long as their is enough moisture.
The following book is the best book I have ever read on how to do all types of composting: The complete compost gardening guide : banner batches, grow heaps, comforter compost, and other amazing techniques for saving time and money, and producing the most flavorful, nutritious vegetables ever. The author is: Barbara Pleasant. I was able to check my book out from the library for free. Since you specifically asked about how to start a compost bed, this may give you exactly the information you are seeking. (11/03/2009)