As I’ve been expanding my backyard garden I have also been looking into starting a compost pile. This would be ideal since:
My family eats lots of fruits and vegetables so we have TONS of organic food waste
fertilizer can get expensive
the climate where I am is warm and would allow for the bacteria in the compost to easily grow
I like food
So let's make some fancy dirt.
After doing my research I have come up with these steps to begin a low maintenance compost pile:
I decided to start off small with a milk crate that has the bottom cut out. This is important since you want to allow worms and microorganisms to find their way to your pile and assist aerating it. You will want to have started collecting materials to compost. Some materials called “brown materials” include newspaper, straw, sawdust, wood chips, and dry leaves are mainly carbon based. The other materials are often referred to as “green” and are nitrogen based. Examples of green materials are green leaves, lawn clippings, and food scraps.You must have some of both materials. there are differing recommendations about the ratio of brown to green materials; I am keeping mine at about 50/50.
Building your compost pile.
First I added a layer of dry materials like leaves, twigs, and newspaper (luckily it was the weekend of Black Friday when I started, so I had plenty of ads). All of the sources I read recommended starting with some dry materials to help with drainage and aeration. Some of the sources instructed to add materials in layers, alternating wet and dry (green and brown), while others just wanted you to toss everything right in: some even suggested using some potting soil in the initial mixture.
I figured that the layering was to make the mixing of the materials easier so I followed that advice. I topped the dry layers with some food scraps (mostly cucumber, zucchini, and yellow squash), coffee grounds, and even crushed egg shells. I alternated between wet and dry and added some potting soil into the mix.
This is probably the simplest part. You are supposed to turn the compost every week or two. I plan on letting mine sit for at least a week then turning it on a schedule. Keeping the pile moist is essential. To conserve water, just allow the rain to do all the work or water it occasionally.
A few months from now it will look more like soil and smell earthy. This means it’s done!
For more specifics on what ingredients to use these are some great resources: