Construct a Simple Compost System

Build your own compost system by following these tips.

| April 2018

  • compost
    The spring is a good time to harvest finished compost and spread it on garden beds and perennials before planting time.
    Photo by Getty Images/patty_c
  • cover
    “Suburban Micro-Farm” by Amy Stross is the perfect guide for readers who want to live a homestead lifestyle in the suburbs.
    Cover courtesy Twisted Creek Press

  • compost
  • cover

The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People (Twisted Creek Press, 2017), by Amy Stross is a helpful guide for readers wanting to grow their own food in their backyard. The book provides useful tips to develop and nurture healthy-soil, use perma-culture techniques for abundant harvests, and to stop letting your garden overwhelm you. The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, "Developing Healthy Soil."

Compost is a way to transform food scraps and yard waste — items that might otherwise go to the landfill l— into a useful and free soil amendment. There are many ways to compost, but here are a few composting styles to meet the needs of beginners and serious micro-farmers alike.

Build a Compost Heap in a Day

Growing up, I learned how to compost by using a heap. We collected kitchen scraps in a compost pail, and my brothers and I took turns emptying it into a compost heap in the corner of the yard. This heap is also where we put grass clippings and other yard waste. The problem with the heap is that there is no easy way to access finished compost without disturbing the rest of the pile, so — for us at least — all of that goodness never got used. The pile just got higher!

However, there is one way that the heap method can be an extremely efficient way to make compost. If you have access to composting materials in bulk, building a heap all at once can yield lots of finished compost all at once, which is essential for anyone starting new gardens on a budget.

John Jeavons in How to Grow More Vegetables recommends finding a spot underneath an oak tree or other deciduous tree because they provide shade throughout the summer as well as a windbreak.

To build a compost heap in a day, measure out a square that is a minimum of four feet long by four feet wide. Outline it with temporary fencing if desired. Loosen the soil using a digging fork. The pile will measure four feet tall. Create compost quickly and evenly by collecting at least three different types of materials, plus a bit of soil, which will serve to inoculate the compost with beneficial soil microbes. Each layer will be about two inches thick and alternated in the following order, with the final top layer being soil.



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