Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Starting a Compost Pile

All good gardens must start with good dirt.  And an important part of good dirt is compost.  It helps to aerate, retain water and provide structure to your soil.  Of course you can buy a bag of compost at your local garden centre but I prefer to make my own.  Why buy compost when I can make as much as I want for free!  Compost generally consists of 1 part brown to 1 part green. Green refers to green waste such as the remains of fruits and vegetables and lawn clippings.  These materials are high in nitrogen.  Brown refers to, quite literally, brown things such as sawdust, dried leaves and other dead plant material.

As you can see my compost pile contains A LOT of brown.  My husband is a woodworker and makes copious amounts of sawdust for my composting pile. Some people might say that sawdust isn't good for your compost pile.  The reason is that it requires lots of nitrogen in order to decompose.  If you put raw sawdust in your soil it will leech the nitrogen it needs to decompose from your plants.  However, if sawdust is allowed to decompose for a period of time with adequate amounts of nitrogen this should not be a problem.  I plan to kickstart the decomposition of this pile with large quantities of manure.  We live in an agricultural area so it should be easy to find fresh manure for relatively cheap.  The combination of the sawdust and manure should be a nice consistency making my compost easy to spread.  Other key ingredients include air and water.  As you can see in the photo above all that sawdust needs to be wetted down and any kitchen waste thoroughly mixed in, otherwise it's just a dry pile of waste which will settle and become compacted.  Ideally you should water and turn your pile as you add material but in this case we moved to our home in late fall and I wasn't prepared to deal with this project at the time so the sawdust simply got piled in a corner.  Now that it's spring my pile is starting to get the attention it deserves.  Next I'll put my mind to finding a permanent spot for my compost and creating a bin to house it.