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WHY COMPOST

What is Compost?

Benefits of Composting

Using Finished Compost

Compost & Nutrition




SETTING UP YOUR SYSTEM

Composting Systems

Siting Your Compost Area

Stockpiling



COMPOSTING BASICS

What to Compost

Stages of Composting

The Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio

Compost Activators

Turning Your Compost



HOW TO COMPOST

Quick Start Guide

The Add-as-you-go Pile

The Batch Pile

Grass Clippings

Food Scraps

Leaves, Weeds &
Garden Debris

Compost Tea

Worm Composting



COMPOST PROBLEMS

Troubleshooting Guide

Ask Professor Rot


 
 



 
 
THE BATCH COMPOST PILE

Professor Rot says:

The Batch Pile is the fastest and easiest way to experience the success of home composting.

It takes planning, a little initial work, and occasional tending, but you will be well-rewarded!


The major advantage of creating a large batch pile of compost in your bin is that it heats up quickly and the organic material decomposes faster, often in 4-8 weeks or longer. For some people who don't plan well, the disadvantages are that it may require stockpiling GREEN and BROWN waste materials, working an hour or so to create the pile, and periodically tending the pile by turning the compost or remoistening it. But ah! The reward is finished compost that is dark, crumbly, uniform in texture, sweet smelling and nutrient-rich!

If you need a little help on some of the above concepts, go to these areas of this website:

If you need to troubleshoot issues with your Batch Pile, go to these places in this website:

 

compost binMost composting at home requires a few tools. Some you may already have in your garden shed or garage; other tools are more specialized to composting and you might desire to acquire them later. Here's some basic items necessary to easily compost at home using this method:

  • A compost bin (manufactured or homemade) to hold the organic material you are composting. Place the bin on soil or unused grassy area. If placed on a deck or other surface, ensure that it has a bottom or drip pan; decomposing matter creates a liquid leachate at the bottom that can ruin surfaces.
  • A garden hose with spray nozzle to moisten your pile.
  • A shovel or pitchfork to place waste material into the bin.
  • A compost aerator to turn your compost. A shovel or pitchfork will do, but they are labor-intensive; good luck using them in the popular manufactured bins with smaller top openings. A compost aerator is a perfect invention for the job it was created for: to turn small piles of compost!
  • A kitchen scraps pail (and possibly a couple of 4-5 gallon buckets in which to stockpile your food scraps before throwing them into the compost bin).compost bin
  • Optional: compost activator, compost thermometer, a couple of Snickers candy bars.

 

 


Below is a handy 6-step diagram on how to create a Batch Pile. Further below are photographs illustrating the same process using a typical homemade bin.

 

batch pile

From Home Composting Made Easy by C. Forrest McDowell, PhD & Tricia Clark-McDowell
Copyright © 2007 by the authors

 

Coarse Materials on Bottom

It is important to place about a 3-inch layer of coarse materials (stalks, straw/hay, small twigs, tall weeds) on or near the bottom of the compost bin.

Why? It provides aeration at the bottom so that beneficial bugs/critters/worms can move up into the pile to help eat materials.

Chop well to increase surface area for faster break down.

batch course material

Build Pile

A Batch Pile may have several alternating layers of GREENs and BROWNs.

Build each one up 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) thick. Repeat this layering process, moistening each layer a little bit, until bin is full.

An alternate method is simply to throw everything into the bin at once, ensuring a balance of GREEN and BROWN materials and moisture.

batch pile green layer

Add Food Scraps & GREENs

Food scraps should be added to a GREEN layer.

Having a stockpile of Food Scraps ensures that you have enough for the several GREEN layers you will likely be creating in the Batch Pile.

GREENs are added in a ratio of 2 parts to 1 part BROWN. OR, in a 1:1 ratio (equal parts).

batch pile food scraps

Add BROWN Materials

Always add BROWN materials, such as leaves, leaf mulch, straw or hay, etc. on top of a GREEN layer. This minimizes odor and flies and scavengers.

Stockpiling BROWNs, especially leaves, is part of the success of Batch Pile composting.

Being high in carbon, use 1 part BROWN to 2 parts GREEN. OR, use equal parts of each.

batch pile brown layer

Chop Up Materials

It is always a good idea to chop up layers of materials to create more surface area and to eliminate bulky waste items, such as rinds, peels, stalks, etc.

Smaller particles help in heat build-up in the bin. Plus, they break down faster to make finished compost sooner.

batch pile chopped

Add Activator (optional)

A good balance or ratio of GREENs to BROWNs should cause the compost heap to quickly build up heat, especially within a few days.

An activator can stimulate heat build-up. It may also be helpful to stimulate cold or sluggish piles that don't seem to be decomposing as quickly as desired.

batch pile activator

Moisten Pile and Layers

Moisture is critical to a compost pile. Lack of proper moisture is a very common problem in backyard composting. So, always check your pile's moisture and remoisten at any time during the composting process over the weeks to come.

Moisten with a spray nozzle. The pile should always feel as moist as a wrung out sponge.

A soggy pile will be odorous, cold and sluggish in terms of decomposition.

batch pile moisten

Seal the Pile

Always seal a new Batch Pile with a BROWN layer several inches thick. This acts as a lid for keeping the heat in.

Sealing the pile also prevents scavengers from entering the top.

batch pile seal layer

Cover the Pile or Bin

Always cover a Batch Pile to keep heat in and to prevent scavenging.

Most commercial bins have tight fitting lids. A homemade bin can have a wooden top or tarp.

batch pile covered

Turn the Compost

Turning the contents of a Batch Pile is critical to getting fast decomposition and good finished compost.

Turning opens up new surface areas, brings outer layers into the center, and aerates the pile. All this helps to retain or return heat in the pile.

Turn with a shovel, garden fork or a specialized compost aerator tool. Do this at least weekly.

batch pile turned

Love Your Compost!

Many backyard composters believe that composting increases the level of happiness in their lives. No argument there!

Your compost has numerous uses. Don't let it sit around for many months or it will lose some of its nutrient-rich quality. It makes a great mulch and can be incorporated into your soil to create amazing tilth.

batch pile happy face

 

When Will the Compost
Be Ready?

A well-prepared Batch Pile can have finished, nutrient-rich compost in about 4-12 weeks. The volume inside the bin will be about one-half the original volume. It should be dark, crumbly in texture, have small particles, and smell pleasantly rich and fresh.

Don't worry if not everything broke down uniformly. Pick out the bigger pieces, or simply incorporate the compost into your garden beds where it will further decompose.

Every batch varies, like homemade bread, but the joy is priceless!

 



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