How to Start a Compost, Part 2

April 13, 2010

homesteading, how to, spring

Starting a new garden? Got a limpid garden? Do you have weak, impoverished soil? Boy oh boy, do I have news for you! It’s time to play in the dirt! Compost is fun, folks! In case you missed the riveting Part 1 in this series, go ahead and read it.

This post is going to be How to Make a Wire Bin, and will be filled with tips and stories of what’s worked for me these years. First, you’ve gotta getta bin.

The Wire Bin
WHAT YOU NEED
Hammer
Shovel
Heavy-duty gloves
Tin snips or cable cutters
Four metal garden stakes or 2 x 4 posts**
Chicken wire, about 15 feet length or so
Twine or heavy-duty garden twisty ties for stakes, or metal staples for posts

Your Wire Bin will probably look a lot neater.

Of course, you can go much fancier, but don’t you really want to get a compost going right now? Sure, you do. Throw together a quick bin and get the compost going. Then you can start constructing your St. Peter’s Basilica of Compost Bins later, and take your time at it. Compost takes about a year to get ready, so time is of the essence.

1. Stake out an area in your yard that receives sun for at least half the day. Hammer the four stakes in the shape of a square. If you have a large yard with a lot of leaves and grass clippings to add, each side of the square should be approximately 4 to 5 feet, with a stake at each corner.

2. Starting at one stake, take the twisty tie and secure the chicken wire to the stake. Or, if you are using wooden posts, tack the wire onto the post using the staples. Go all the way around the square.

3. Now, you can leave the front part of the square open, as I do, or you can loosely secure the wire to the front for easy access later. Just keep in mind that in a year, you need to get all the stuff OUT of the bin.

4. Dump in your waste. Experts say it’s best to try to layer the stuff: leaves, then grass clippings, then food waste. etc. I do not layer. I just dump *whatever* in. It’s been working so far. This is nature we’re talking about– it’s well able to what it needs to do without much pampering from a human.

5. You can add stuff like compost starter to the mix, if you want. But a shovelful of garden soil or cow manure will do. The purpose for this is to give the compost a little kick-start with that wonderful aerobic bacteria that will be making your waste into humus (prepared compost). I have never added anything, and have done fine. The garden soil is a good idea, and I’ll be trying that this year.

**Do not use pressure-treated wood. PTW is coated with chemicals (such as arsenic) that will leach into the soil and into your vegetables.

    Tips for a Really Good Compost Pile:

  • Add earthworms to your pile. Earthworms are marvelous for compost. They help aerate the mix and their, uh, poop, is a great addition to any compost pile!
  • During dry spells, water the compost pile. Just a little.
  • Every month or so, turn the mix over, or stir it up best you can. I actually NEVER do this, because the pile is so heavy. My compost turns out OK. But turning may help make the compost decompose quicker. Use a shovel or pitchfork to mix the waste. Watch out for innocent earthworm bystanders.
  • Add only vegetable matter to the mix, never meats, fats, or grease. This will disrupt the bacteria revelry going on. And meats and grease may attract skunks, raccoons, and rats.
june-garden

Gardens love compost!

In the next and final installment is this series, I’ll talk about what to add to your compost bin, and what NOT to add, and what to do when you finally have your compost ready for adding to the garden. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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  1. How to Start a Compost, Part 3 | New York Renovator - October 3, 2012

    […] is the final post in my How to Start a Compost series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 to get up to speed. I’ve already covered the essential compost general guidelines, some sage […]