Make A Compost Pile And Your Garden Will Thank You

If your plants could talk, they’d beg you to create and maintain a compost pile. After some initial work to set things up, it becomes second nature to dispose of certain food scraps and yard clippings to your pile, converting the junk into rich soil.

The Environmental Protection Agency set up guidelines for keeping your compost rig flowing properly.

One method calls for layering a container with food scraps for carbon and plants for nitrogen, keeping everything moist. Some people add worms to help break down the material.

You’re probably best choosing a spot that’s shady and accessible with a garden hose. When adding to the pile, use stuff that’s already broken up into small chunks, and keep the whole thing covered to help the compost stay moist and more prone to break down. Let it stew for several weeks before you can expect results.

The gunk at the bottom of the pile, which should be darker than the rest, is the stuff you can use to enrich your plants.

It’s probably a good idea to give your neighbors a heads-up on what you’re doing so they’re more inclined to look at your possibly ugly, foul-smelling backyard project with admiration rather than disdain.

Create Your Own Compost Pile [Environmental Protection Agency]

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  1. Cat says:

    I make my own compost…

    …on Consumerist.com

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Are you mad!?

    There’s bacteria in compost! It’s bad enough its like fighting the Viet Cong in my bathroom, but now you want me to put bacteria on my property… on purpose!?

    • Cat says:

      What‚Äôs gone wrong with the world? I can‚Äôt even take a bath without these bacteria jumping in with me. They‚Äôre in my shirt cupboard, and Streptococcus and E. Coli are in the kitchen now eating my wife‚Äôs jam. Oh… they are cutting off my legs! I can see them peeping out of my wife‚Äôs blouse. Why doesn‚Äôt Mr. Obama do something about it before it is to late? Ohhhh‚Ķ.God‚Ķ

    • longfeltwant says:

      “Canadian Bacon is best bacon!”

      Um, that’s racist.

  3. winstonthorne says:

    Check with your city/town hall first. Some municipalities regulate the size, type, and location of compost piles, and nuisance laws can apply to odors (though your compost won’t have a stench if you do it right). If you have an HOA, there could be CC&R’s in there that apply as well.

  4. Coleoptera Girl says:

    Also, put it as far away from your house as possible. My dad set up a compost heap years ago, for grass clippings, and we ended up with an army of little bugs creeping in out kitchen window. The heap was about 10′ away from the window, max… That was “icky.”

  5. katarzyna says:

    Your garden will thank you, your neighbors will not.

    • Hoss says:

      Unless you’re attracting rodents there are no issues. Compost doesn’t smell if it’s all plant material (which it should be)

    • Kate says:

      OMG, have you never had a compost pile before? It’s essentially a pile of decaying leaves and grass – if that smells, you should stop putting dog poop in it.

  6. chizu says:

    If your compost pile is stinking up — something IS WRONG. Our pile never stinks.

    Second, you want it in the SUN. (At least that’s where we have it.) We have a compost pile in the backyard of our office, the stuff we threw in last year is nice and black (at the bottom of the bin), and the sun (heat) helps break all the stuff down nicely. We never had to water the pile because there were seep holes on the top of the bin that allows rain and snow in.

    Check with your local or county public works, there might be co-op programs that are selling compost bins for cheap. If you don’t want to buy one, you could easily build one with chicken wires to contain the materials. Turn it every now and then to rotate the materials.

    And like someone else had mentioned, check with your HOA or town to make sure they okay it.

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    More EPA guidelines today. I’m starting to wonder how I get through life without them telling me what to do all the time. Snarky comment.

    I have a compost pile in one corner of the garden, and everything goes in there from coffee grounds to egg shells to vegetable scraps. Plus leaves, grass clippings etc. Don’t put in any meat or dairy items. It shouldn’t smell at all.

    I had one very memorable experience with my compost pile. Some sort of ground hornets or bees built a nest under it, unbeknownst to me. When I tapped the side of the pile with the push mower, a huge army of angry bees attacked the mower. I was able to escape with no stings, but hours later, near dark, angry bees still circled the mower. I dumped boiling water down the hole to kill them. My husband wanted to spray them with bee spray, but I didn’t want to ruin the compost.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      I approve of your non-chemical methods. :D

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        And I wouldn’t have boiled the bees, except they were really nasty and I was afraid the dog or I would be stung. I waited until about midnight to pour the water down the hole. Used the canning kettle so it was a few gallons, at least. No more bee problem!

        • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

          And now the bees (and their hive) are part of your compost.

    • KennyS says:

      Don’t put grass clippings in the compost pile. Use a mulching mower instead and they can supply 30-40% of the lawns Nitrogen requirements.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        That’s assuming I want the grass to grow better! If it never grew at all during the summer, I’d be thrilled. Stupid stuff goes wild and with all the rain we’ve been having, it’s nearly impossible to mow.

        Conversely, if I wanted a lush green lawn that I had to mow twice a week, it would be a barren, dry weed patch.

  8. alexiskai says:

    The #1 reason we started a compost bin was to decrease our trash load. By not putting food waste in the trash, we (a) took longer to fill up a bag, (b) didn’t have a stinky bag when we were done, and (c) reduced our bag output enough that we didn’t need to pay to have bin removal in the rural area where we lived.

    More compost hints:

    1. $20 on Amazon will get you a Yard Butler compost aerator that’s easier to use than a shovel and significantly accelerates breakdown of waste.

    2. As someone else mentioned, compost piles should have maximal sun exposure; this is why compost bins are usually black, to increase heat uptake. Hot compost piles break down faster and attract fewer pests.

    3. If you don’t do a lot of yard maintenance, you won’t have any yard clippings (aka brown compost), so your pile will be mostly kitchen waste (aka green compost). In this case, water is your enemy. Do not water the pile. There’s plenty of water in it already. Make sure it’s ventilated/aerated often so the water dries out. Otherwise you’ll get mold and anaerobic bacteria, which stink.

    4. Although the rules say not to add oils, fats, or meat to the compost pile, you can add these if either (a) they’re in very small amounts or (b) your pile is engineered to reach 140¬∞ on a regular basis, thus allowing the type of bacteria that break these down to thrive.

    5. If your bin develops swarms of flies, you can get rid of them by depositing a layer of brown compost on top. This might include dead leaves or shredded household paper.

  9. akronharry says:

    Compost piles don’t smell in Farmville.

  10. scoosdad says:

    I reluctantly had to disperse my large compost pile last winter after a family of coyotes discovered its inner warmth from the decomposition going on and started nesting in it on cold winter nights.

    We’re having a problem here with coyotes and I don’t want to give them any reason to hang around too close to the house.

  11. witeowl says:

    My compost bins smell like lovely forest earth. If your compost piles smell, you’re doing something very wrong (or just need more “browns” to balance out the nitrogen).

  12. Cantras says:

    I don’t have a compost pile, but I do use a lot of the same principles with yard waste. Rake the yard, pour it into designated trash bin kept it the hot garage, empty my nalgene bottle into it when I come home from work so it stays wet, stir occasionally with rake. Then it just dissolves over time instead of having to be carted away.

    Maybe the stuff at the bottom would count as compost by now, for all I know.

  13. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I tried to do this, but I suck at this stuff. The weeds took over before I could stop them, as well as the stupid morning glory someone planted in the fence line. My backyard is ridiculously fertile. I can’t afford to install raised beds so I think I will let all the existing ones I tried to make go back to nature.

  14. mommiest says:

    I keep a plastic bin for vegetable scraps in the freezer. I don’t get bugs in my kitchen, and freezing the scraps helps break down plant cell structure. I just carry it out to the compost pile when it’s full.

  15. Buy used! says:

    Something that’s been really convenient for me is having a 1′ tall, clear, round acrylic container under the sink next to the garbage and recycling. (Think I got ours at BBB.) This is a good “way station” between generating the scraps and dumping it into the main pile outside‚Äîbetween all the coffee grounds, orange and banana peels, and veggie scraps, it takes about a week to fill up. It doesn’t smell at all (but I do use the cover in the summer or else fruit flies will swarm), and it’s incredible how long it takes for our garbage to fill up. Oh, and my tomatoes kick ass!

  16. kimmie says:

    Many counties have a Master Composter program, much like the Master Gardener program. I’d recommend consulting them for questions if your area has one!

    I live in an apartment, so I compost indoors with my Naturemill, which was not inexpensive, but keeps my container garden fresh with compost year round!

  17. ldillon says:

    My grandmother used to have a compost pile (as do I) that is nothing more than a pile of food scraps and lawn trimmings. No needs for a fancy plastic container. It just needs direct sunlight, moisture and occasional turning over. Compost should age a year before you put it on the garden. I have two small piles, this year’s and last year’s.

  18. Jimmy37 says:

    A properly built compost does not smell. You need the right mix of brown and green matter, and, no, you don’t just let stew. You have to turn the pile to let the oxygen-loving bacteria proliferate, otherwise, it will stink.