Anytime of the year is the right time to begin a compost pile, but most people prefer autumn because of the abundance of leaves available.
A holding bin will facilitate containment of the compost pile. Its size will depend on your needs, but a 5' long by 4' wide by 3' high bin should suffice.
A simple bin can be built for relatively little money from chicken wire, scrap wood, snow fencing, or cinder blocks. Place it in a convenient location and add grass clippings, leaves and kitchen scraps as they collect. Layering with topsoil is recommended because it assists in the decay process.
Directions for building various composting bins on your own are linked below:
Tips and tricks for getting the most out of your compost bin at home or at work.
· Nitrogen is essential to the composting process. Adding fertilizer containing nitrogen or manure assists in rapid decomposition.
· Shredding or chopping materials to be composted into small pieces also speeds up the decay process.
· Finished compost may be easier to use if it is first screened through 1" wide wire mesh to eliminate materials that are not completely decomposed.
· Compost should be applied to soil in layers from 1" to 3" in thickness. Mix it thoroughly into the soil of vegetable gardens and flowerbeds before and after planting.
· Covering the compost pile with plastic can help retain moisture and heat during winter months. This will also protect the pile from becoming too wet when it rains, which may deplete nitrogen from the material.
· Frequent turning during winter is not recommended in cold weather because it will allow too much heat to escape.
o Aerate the pile by turning every other month or so with a pitchfork. This provides proper ventilation and shifts materials from the outer edges of the pile to the center, where they are better able to be heated and to break down. A quicker system calls for more turning, and one or two adjacent bins come in handy for this - just shift the compost from one bin to another.
o Alternate a 6" layer of compostable yard and household wastes with a 1" layer of garden soil. Repeat until the bin is almost full, wetting each layer thoroughly. Within a week, the center of the pile should be hot. Every few days turn the pile by shifting its contents into the adjacent bin.
o This method will produce usable compost in just a few months. When the material is uniform in color and texture is crumbly to the touch, you’re ready to start gardening.
· A pile should be turned immediately if ammonia or other offensive odors are detected.
· Allowing proper time is important. Compost that is not fully decomposed may cause nitrogen starvation when used on plants.