The goal this year is to compost all garden debris, keep the pile hot this Winter and have a nutritious finished compost for the upcoming year. Fall is the best time to start a compost pile because of the amount of debris that can be collected. You typically want a pile that is at least 3 ft x 3x ft 3 ft for it to properly heat up. Ingredients for a successful compost pile include oxygen, water, nitrogen (greens), and carbon (browns). I have t-posts and chicken wire laying around, so I used that for my bin structure. A tarp on the top to keep excess moisture out and protect the pile from the sun drying the pile out. The pile is located in the garden for easy access.
Above you see the beginning stages of the compost pile. Spent plants are being chopped up and added along with weeds and straw. The straw was being used as mulch this year. The goal is to clean the garden of all debris and reincarnate as compost and to prevent pests from overwintering in the debris. This pile was started mid-September. The bottom layer, I added about 5 inches of straw (carbon). Added a gallon of rain water to the top of that. Next added spent garden plants (green), then added some rain water. Next, added another layer of straw and some rain water. I have access to chicken manure from my folks, so added a layer of chicken manure (green) and wetted it down with some rain water. Next browns then greens and adding rain water to each layer. Add enough water to get the layers wet, not sopping wet.
A week later, the pile is reduced. The temperature stayed around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. At this time, it’s time to take out the manure fork and break the pile up (exercise). Once you take your pile out, add some more straw for the bottom and add rain water. Take what was the top of the pile and layer on top of the straw. Take what was the bottom layer and add. Add rain water, if needed. At this time, if you have any more spent plants, add them now. Then add the remainder of the compost, which will be the previous middle layer. If you have the room you could just set up another bin and add your layers to it. The idea is just to add oxygen and water if needed. A week later we flip again.
Everything is breaking down nicely as seen above. Just keep adding garden debris, rotating layers and your pile is going to retain heat and break down nicely. You also get a great workout.
Greens used: sweet potato vines, spent fruit and vegetable plants, spent flower plants, hop bines, weeds, brewing waste, chicken manure
Browns used: Straw, dried bean vines, dead leaves
**Note: Since I am in town, I compost fruit/vegetable waste, coffee grounds with some brown materials to not attract mice and other pests. Once these scraps are rotted, I add it to the garden debris compost pile as a “green”.
Nothing is thrown out on the curb to be hauled away to a landfill – mission accomplished!