How to Build a Compost

Building your own compost heap has many rewards. Not only will you be helping the planet by recycling and putting waste back into the “earth” but you can also make one of the most nutrient-rich soils for your garden plants and vegetables – a win/win situation for all.

Here’s how to do it:

Prepare the area/container – you can go out and buy a fancy compost bin (there are many to choose from at garden centers) or you can simply make a pile, which is far more economical and will work just as well.

To make a compost pile, you simply need 4 sides and a covering.  You can use 4 similar sized pieces of wood, nailed together or you can use breeze blocks to make an enclosure for your waste.   If you or your partner are handy, this can be a double or triple compost bin. Leave a detachable area in the front so that you can easily scoop out the compost.

If using bricks simply leave a small gap.  If using wood, you can do the same or leave the whole front side loose so that you can easily remove the whole plank of wood to access your compost once ready.

Wood tends to be the ideal material as it is completely eco-friendly, economical and far easier to put together than a brick-sided heap.

Add your drainage material – Once you have your “container” ready then line the bottom with biodegradable material that will help absorb the compost faster.  You can use straw, twigs or newspaper.

Heat things up – In order for your waste to turn into compost, you need heat.  You can do this by adding a thin layer of already mature soil (which contains microorganisms that will feast on the ingredients, and release heat) on top of the first layers of waste.  This will help trap the heat in and your waste will compost faster. Generally, a larger pile will compost faster, providing you take the next step.

Cover and Turn – Another way to keep the temperature high in your heap is by covering it up.  You can use old potato sacks, a sheet of black plastic, or a thick blanket.  Some purchased bins are made of black plastic, with lids, so heat is kept high.

Your compost will take approximately 3 or so months to degrade.  You can help things along by turning the heap once or twice a month.  Simply uncover and using a garden fork or shovel simply turn the compost to distribute the heat. This also adds air to the compost. The bacteria that decompose organic matter, and the other creatures that make up the compost ecosystem, need air. Keep an eye on the moisture level as well – too wet compost piles lose heat.

Things you can compost – Shredded newspaper, used paper towels, uncooked vegetables and peelings, grass or lawn cuttings, old plants (careful not to add seeds), hedge clippings, animal waste (manure), weeds (again, watch for weed seeds), rotten fruit or fruit remains, leaves, vegetable garden trimmings and waste.

The compost will be ready to use when it no longer heats and all of the original ingredients are unrecognizable.

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