Composting 101: 6 Steps to a Vibrant Backyard Compost Pile

Garden compost is super simple to create – you just need to follow a few rules to make sure that what comes out of your pile is odor-free, rich, vibrant, and nourishing for your soil. It doesn’t even matter what C:N ratio you’ve got – decomposition is happening.

  1. Know your Greens and Browns. Grab yourself a chart displaying materials that are Green (high nitrogen) and Brown (high carbon). Woody materials, leaves, nut shells, corn stalks, and fruit waste are all high in carbon (Browns). Grass clippings, pasture, coffee grounds, food waste, garden waste, manures, hay, weeds, and vegetable scraps are all high in nitrogen (Greens). Without getting into too much fancy science, simply aim for a 1:1 ratio of Greens:Browns.
  2. Introduce soil microbes. This may sound complex, but really, all you have to do is add a little garden soil into your compost pile. This is enough to introduce your native soil microbial community into the pile (known as “inoculating” your pile)
  3. Add water and air. Because it’s the microbes that break down your plant matter, they need water and air to survive. So give them enough water to make it about 60% moist, and mix it all up with a shovel.
  4. Place your pile in Zone 1. Ideally you’ll want to pick a site that’s easy for you to visit, or you risk ignoring and avoiding your lovely compost pile. Aim for zone 1 (closest to your home) and it’ll be easy to see how your pile is doing.
  5. Choose a container for your pile. There are a variety of containers to choose from – wire mesh, open (no container), 3-bin mesh/wood system, tumblers, or solid plastic bins. If you have unwanted animal visitors, opt for a solid plastic bin with a lid as opposed to a wire mesh or open pile. If you’re handy with tools, you can also make your own. Be sure there are a few air holes in your bin to allow fresh oxygen to flow through.
  6. Visit your pile and give it a little care. Check on your pile at least once a week – add water if it’s dry, turn and mix it if it’s hot. This keeps your microbes happy and the compost going strong.

As you visit your compost each week, you’ll see it goes through three phases: (1) mesophilic, which lasts for a few days – this is the point where composting garden wormsthe temperature begins to rise very quickly to peak temperature, due to heat given off by food web activity. Then it reaches phase (2) thermophilic, which can last for a few days to a few months – this is the point of highest microbial activity from thermophyllic organisms. At some point most of the original organic matter has been consumed and as this quantity continues to decline, so too does food web activity, and we enter phase (3) cooling and maturation, which can last for a few months. Once your compost has cooled to ambient temperature, you are free to use it in your garden.

Simple, right? There’s no complex math or science when you simply want to replenish your soil with what your garden has taken.

9 comments

Daggy Walles

Lucas Campton

Huguette Racicot

Too bad some communities ban them

Paul Dryden 😁

Chloe Bishop-Allin

Calico Dx

I’ve yet to create from my waste
Good healthy compost
Often I produce only maggots and flies
One day I hope for my waste
To
Produce life

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