|Image: Patrice Beaulieu ©|
I live in the woods in Maine which means I don’t have to worry about my neighbors being bothered by the site or smell of my pile; though I must say I’ve never had a problem with a smelly compost. I usually have 2 to 3 piles going at once from spring til fall in different stages of decomposition.
I chose to put my compost piles in the tree line behind the house. This location works well for me (unless there’s a foot of snow to walk through) because it’s close to the house but not so close that I have to see the pile every time I go in the backyard.
I don’t use a compost bin. My piles are directly on the ground which has its benefits - it’s easier for the earth worms to make their way into the piles. I collected a bunch of fallen branches and stacked them about 6 inches high into a 3-sided rectangle. I didn’t fully enclose my compost pile so I could walk right in with a wheelbarrow. I have about a foot of space between my compost pile and my make-shift “bin.” This allows me to easily walk around the pile and mix it up when I need too.
I start each of my piles with a base of brown leaves. Since my piles are in the woods these brown ingredients are readily available. As I weed my gardens I toss in the green ingredients as long as they haven’t gone to seed. I don’t want a bunch of weed seeds in my compost seeing as I use the cold composting method which doesn’t decompose weed seeds.
I turn my piles about once a month with a pitch fork and sometimes more often if the piles start to compact. I also add kitchen scraps such as egg shells, coffee grounds and the filters and a bunch of other decomposable ingredients.
Come fall I usually have a pile of finished compost which I till into the garden before the ground freezes. I like to work the finished compost into my gardens during this time of year so the nutrients have plenty of time to leach into the soil before the start of the next growing season.
Over the winter my I continue to add to my remaining pile. If I have 2 piles going I add to the pile with the least decomposition and allow the other pile to continue to decompose without adding ingredients. Having more than 1 pile going at a time allows the composting cycle to continue and gives me a good supply of finished compost every year.
As I write this post in early July, I have 2 piles going. I’ve stopped adding ingredients to my first compost pile and started a second which I’ll add to until late summer or early fall when I’ll start a third. See how the cycle continues?
What does your backyard composting entail?