How to make a compost heap

There are many benefits of composting your kitchen and garden waste. 

Compost heaps are a great way to recycle your kitchen and garden wastes. It takes up little space, can be made from materials that you might have lying around the house, and is easy to maintain.

Composting can also help reduce odours in your yard or garden by breaking down food scraps into organic matter which decomposes quickly. 

Compost is also important for building the soil and keeping valuable resources out of landfills. It provides excellent nutrition for plants as well, feeding beneficial microbes that help soil quality.

But where do you start, what do you need, can anyone do it? In this article, we will walk you through the composting process so that you can get started today.

DIY Compost Bin

Table of Contents

Select The Location

You may want your pile near your garden or right next to where you do most of your cooking so that it’s easy for you and/or family members to toss food scraps into the pile.

If there isn’t an area already selected, try choosing an out-of-the-way spot that’s close enough to walk over once in a while but far away from any fruit trees, bushes or vegetable gardens – these plants don’t like decomposing kitchen scraps being mixed with their soil. If possible, choose a level patch of ground without grasses or weeds as this will make getting rid of them much easier later on when they start to grow.

You’ll also need to water the pile during dry spells, so find a spot within reach of your watering hose. Make sure to keep it away from buildings or any other confined structures – this way it won’t smell up your house, shed or fence when the composting process decomposes organic materials (especially since decay and rotting are what causes odours).

Compost Bin

When Should You Start Your compost heap

Start your compost heap in late summer to early winter when you still have plenty of grass cuttings and leaves available. This will allow time for the pile to heat up and dry out so that it won’t get too wet or smelly before you’re ready to use it.

Compost Heap Container - Build or Buy

Wooden Pallets

The easiest and cheapest way to make a compost heap is by using wooden pallets. Pallets are usually the perfect size, start by joining three pallets together. Join the back and sides of the raised, flush two side walls to each other using screws.

Screw two brackets to each corner of the bin, one at the top and one at the bottom. You now have your completed walls. For the front use another pallet or build a simple door configuration to give easy access. Chicken wire is a good option to wrap around your new construction which will help keep the content from spilling out.

green waste pallet bin

Stake out the ground

A very simple construction utilises wooden 2 x 4 stakes driven into the ground every 15 to 30cm. A good size heap will measure approx 3′ x 3′ and again can be finished off with chicken wire.

Purchase a compost bin

If you do not want the hassle of constructing a compost container your best bet would be to consider plastic compost bins.

Tumbling composters are some of the most popular types of composters, thanks to their ease and versatility. These easy to use compost bins make it fast and simple to turn your pile with a minimum of effort.

SQUEEZE master Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler Bin 160 l Capacity rotatable, Better Air Circulation Efficient Compost, Rotating Tumbling Composter Bin for Garden

  • 🌿 Perfectly suited for your garden and for people not wanting to mix the organic waste in their traditional compost bin
  • 🌿 The tumbling designRotating Compost Bin makes mixing easy and efficient. Just close the door and turn it 5-6 times every 2-3 days. In hot sunny conditions and with a proper balance of ingredients the compost can finish in as little as 4-6 weeks
  • 🌿 The composter is not sealed and the divider inside will fit securely but perfectly so that the best aeration is achieved for effective composting. So that organic waste can be decomposed without agglomeration. Which helps make the best compost for you
  • 🌿 Simple to load and unload, the BPA-free, food-grade, weatherproof and UV-protected plastic ensures faster and more efficient composting all year round, while never leaching harmful toxins.

VOUNOT Compost Bin Garden, 300 Litre Plastic Composters Outdoor, Black

This composting bin is stationary, meaning it won’t tip or move as some of the smaller portable models do. Users find that this type heats up the material inside more quickly and excels at processing larger quantities.

If you find that the compost in one bin doesn’t dry out quickly enough, you can place a second or third bin adjacent to it during the process. This will create channels that allow air to circulate from pile to pile across the bottom edges where contact occurs between bins.

  • 🌿  ECO FRIENDLY – Stay eco friendly and self-sufficient thanks to the 300L garden compost bin.grass clippings
  • 🌿 RECYCLE AND REUSE – You can easily store any household and garden waste safely in one place and recycle it as and when you need it.
  • 🌿  300LITRES – This sizeable compost bin can hold up to 300 litres of waste, so you will never have to worry about running out of compost again.
  • 🌿  EASY ASSEMBLY – Assembly is made simple thanks to its click-together flat-pack design (no screws required).
  • 🌿  STRONG AND STURDY – Constructed using only the strongest and high-quality plastics this composter will survive any season and is built for long term usability./ Dimensions: 59 x 59 x 81 (cm)/ Capacity: 300L

Get Composting

You have your area, you have decided on the size and what construction you will be using now it’s time to get composting.

Step One: Gather Your Ingredients

When building your compost heap, it is recommended that 60% of your material be carbon: dry leaves, wood chips, straw, shredded newspaper and 40% nitrogen: manure, green waste material like tree branches or grass clippings; and kitchen scraps like vegetable peelings and coffee grounds.

If you want a faster-composting cycle, then shredding speeds the process up considerably. Shredding also makes for a neater looking pile and one that is easier to turn. Shredding creates a bigger surface area for organic materials, thereby exposing them to more bacterial invasion. Larger pieces of organic material impede aerobic decomposition.

Avoid composting perennial weeds, weed seeds or invasive species that can spread to your garden. Pet waste and diseased plants are also a no-no.

Step Two: Build It Up!

Now that you have all of your garden compost materials, it’s time to start building your compost pile. Start with some brown material in the center of your bucket or trash can. Then add more grass clippings and more green and brown materials followed by kitchen scraps and finally the brown material again on top to finish it off. Repeat as you build your pile.

Step Three: Add Water And Let It Rot!

Your compost heap needs water in order to decompose properly – you guessed it, this is step three! A good way to accomplish this task is to keep a water hose nearby and wet the outside of your compost heap once every few days.

Step Four: Add Some Love And Keep It Going!

Your finished heap should be ready to use in about six weeks but it’s always good to check on progress periodically. You can tell if your compost is finished by looking for a crumbly, dark brown texture. It should not have any green leaves or fruit peels in it.

A good way to tell if your compost heap is ready for use is by the smell: you can’t really mistake a nasty rotting odour when there’s no other kind of smell around! If that doesn’t work and you’re still unsure about how “finished” they are then take them out one at a time from the middle of the pile, turn them over so they become completely moist and then wait three days before adding more material.

What to do with your finished compost ?

Now that you’ve got your compost, the next step is to put it in use! The best way to do this would be by planting a row of vegetables or different types of plants close enough so they can get nutrients from each other. You could also just turn some into a potting mix and plant individual flowers in pots for an instant garden.

compost composting

Conclusion

There are pros and cons to building your own compost heap and buying a bin. The main advantage of building your own compost heap is that you can make it a specific size, shape, and height that suits your needs. Depending on the type of plastic bins you buy, they also come in various sizes. Some people use bins with handles so they can be easily turned upside down for turning the contents inside. The disadvantage of making your own compost heap is that it takes time and needs space to build one.

Common Issues

Here are some common composting problems and their solutions so that you can start composting today!

Problem: Composting is smelly.

Solution: Add some water to your compost pile occasionally and keep it moist until the decomposition process increases the moisture level in the pile. Adding a layer of straw can also help with odour control by keeping air from reaching decomposing material, which makes an ideal environment for bacteria growth (and thus smells).

Problem: My compost doesn’t look like soil! It’s all brown or black. There are no worms or bugs anywhere around it. Why? I’m not sure what to do now that my piles don’t seem to be working out!

Solution – Mix up your ingredients your pile needs air, water, and carbon. Add some straw as it will help with odour control (as mentioned above) while adding additional oxygen into the mix by providing plenty of surfaces for bacteria growth! Lastly, add brown materials such as leaf litter or dried grass clippings which contain lignin – a natural material that breaks down over time and provides carbon all organisms need to survive.”

Problem: I don’t know how much of each ingredient to use.

Solution – A great rule of thumb is that a five-gallon bucket or trashcan filled with kitchen scraps will produce enough compost for one square foot in your garden.

Problem: My compost pile has too much water and is not decomposing; what do I do?

Solution – Add brown materials! A layer of dried leaves or straw will help absorb excess moisture. If you have access to hay, this would be a great additive as it can retain up to 20 times its weight in water without decomposing which makes for an ideal solution.”

Problem: The soil around my vegetable garden smells bad after rainstorms because all the mulch stays on top instead of being mixed with the dirt. What can I do?

Solution – If your compost pile is too wet, it will not decompose as well. Mix some dry leaves or straw into the top layer of compost to absorb excess moisture.”

Problem: Rodents regularly raid the pile

Solution– Remove less viable composting materials such as meats and large chunks of vegetables; animal-proof the compost pile by placing grating around and tarp above you put your compost pile in a location where rodents can easily access it, don’t be surprised when they do. To discourage them from coming back to the same spot, again and again, use heavy metal wire mesh or chicken wire around the perimeter of your pile.”

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Oliver Wright

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