Making your own compost pile is a great way to recycle and reuse materials you might otherwise throw away. A good compost pile will enrich your soil, preventing the need for chemical fertilizers. Compost piles are easy to maintain and, when assembled correctly, will not smell bad or attract pests or rodents. Making a compost pile will help lower your carbon footprint while adding helpful nutrients to your home garden.

How to Compost

Start by selecting a shady place to assemble your pile. You should build a box, use a well-vented bin, or make a cage from chicken wire to contain your compost. Then begin composting with the three most important elements: browns, greens, and water. Use the browns as the foundation of your pile (including dead leaves, branches and twigs). If the branches are very large, break them into smaller pieces.  Next, add your greens (including grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds). Your pile should have an equal amount of brown and green materials, and you should alternate the layers, adding water to moisturize the pile and promote the breakdown of materials. You will also need to turn your compost pile periodically using a shovel or pitchfork to stir the materials together.

Tip: When adding fruit or vegetable waste to your compost pile, always bury it at least 10 inches under the compost material to promote the breakdown process. (Tweet this)

What to Compost

There are many everyday materials that you probably throw away that could be added to your pile. These include fruits and vegetable waste, eggshells, coffee grounds and coffee filters, tea bags, nut shells, shredded newspaper, cardboard, paper, yard trimmings, grass clippings, houseplants, hay and straw, leaves, dryer lint, sawdust and woodchips, hair and fur, and cotton rags.

What Not to Compost

You can compost almost anything that rots, but some foods and plants do not decay properly and lead to other problems. Black walnut tree leaves or twigs, coal or charcoal ash, dairy products, insect-ridden plants, fats, grease, or oils, meat or fish bones and scraps, pet waste, and chemically-treated yard waste might release harmful chemicals, create odor problems attracting pests, or contain harmful bacteria.

When Your Compost Pile is Ready

You will know when your compost pile is finished when the matter at the bottom is a rich dark brown color and the soil is moist. The whole process can take anywhere from two months to several years.

Tip: Speed up the decomposition of your compost pile by placing a tarp on top of it to help it retain its moisture. (Tweet this)

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