Friday, April 20, 2012

The Most Basic Compost Pile in History

I'm new to this homesteading stuff, and I don't have a big budget to spend on things like fancy composters.  That doesn't mean that I don't want a nice, free source of compost for our garden though.  So I decided to start my own compost pile.  And it took me about an hour.  That is because I had to first rake up the piles of material that would make it up.  So really, it took more like ten minutes.

I first cleared out an area in the bottom corner of my yard, which is surrounded by shrubs, is the furthest common point from any of the surrounding houses, and is sort of ugly anyhow.  I'm just going to warn you now that I would not be graciously given any photography awards for these photos.  They are pretty blurry, bland, and in general poorly lit.  But they illustrate what I did, so bear with me!

The bare corner in our yard about to be transformed into a marvel of aerobic decomposition.

So I had this awesome idea (and I thought myself quite brilliant) that I would put the sticks at the bottom for three reasons: (1) they would take longer to break down, so I wanted them closer to the ground where my little decomp soldiers are hanging out, (2) they would prop up the compost pile and aerate it from underneath, and (3) they would help with drainage because this is a rather damp corner in the spring.  After checking a few websites online that dealt with an actual pile and not some fancy rotating drum, I came across one that said "lay your twigs down first to help with drainage and aerate the pile".  So I felt quite validated and confident in my compost decision making.

The bottom of the pile.

A wiling young helper carrying sticks never hurts the success of your compost pile, either.

So then I started taking the old leaves and little twigs that accumulated in our yard over the winter (I swear we did a good job raking last year and had loads of bags for fall clean-up!), and putting them on the pile.  Two things that made this easier and faster:  I had done most of the raking on March 22nd when it was 25 degrees (what?!?) and we were thriving in the sun, and I used our brand-new-to-us wheelbarrow that my mother-in-law generously gave me and her wonderful brother drove up to Summerside to deliver (he also brought in our waste cart).

Not quite finished yet, but it was geting late and I didn't know if the camera would work when I finished.

Here is my "finished" compost pile; I now have a very tidy backyard and a wonderful start to composting excitement.
So I am aware that everything that I put in my pile today is "brown" material, and I need to layer it with "green" material.  I just wanted to clean up our yard and get the pile started.  Before I came in, I watered it to dampen the material.

Side note: is anyone else worried about how dry it is this spring?  The clouds of dust coming up as I was raking this stuff were crazy!!

Anyway, as I collect vegetable scraps and whatnot I'll take them out and layer the compost and sprinkle water on it and turn it and cover it to warm it up and love it in general.  Now this is not the most sophisticated compost pile in the world.  It doesn't have walls, it doesn't have a sleek round body with hatch and turn-crank, it isn't even a barebones structure made with pallets.  But for the moment, it will provide habitat and cover in our backyard, it will eventually decompose, and it provides an out-of-the-way place to store our yard waste (and soon to develop chicken poo!), and I'll be able to use it, some day, to feed my lovely veggie plants.

I like it.  Make your own!

This post is shared with Homestead Barn Hop #59 at The Prairie Homestead.


  1. A good start Rose! My favourite part though, of course, is that adorable willing helper of yours. Such a great boy! xo

  2. Great idea!
    Last year I did something very similar only I add SOIL to the top of my compost and planted my veggies right in it. As it heated up it gave the plants just the right amount of warmth and nitrogen it need to grow! We had squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and tomatoes grow from that mound. It's called Hugelkulture... I loved it so much I've planted in it this year too!

    ...from HR barn hop-- I'm #213
    So nice to meet you, Pat

  3. looks good, I love simple solutions that don't require much work or money! Compost doesn't have to be difficult. I have a purpose built compost (although it doesn't turn, just a plastic box), but when it gets full I just build a pile nearby. Problem is the chickens love to scratch through it...


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