Composting 101

Composting 101

Labor Day has passed, and the leaves are beginning to turn as the breeze gets cooler. Fall is the best time to start your composting for your next season of gardening!

Here is what you will need to get started:

  • First, make sure your community has no regulations against composting. Strange, I know, but please follow local regulation. (The same goes for collecting rain water.)
  • Choose a level area with good drainage for the compost pile or select a non plastic (metal is preferable) container.
  • Do not place the pile right against any wooden buildings or fences, or on asphalt or concrete.
  • A 4-5 tined pitched fork is reccommended to turn over the compost pile.
  • A shredder is handy to cut up larger pieces of scraps.
  • Compost thermometer to monitor the compost temp.

Now begin thinly layering the piles as follows :

  • The first layer should be organic materials such as vegetable waste, grass clippings, leaves, hay or straw, chopped corn cobs, corn stalks, small twigs, or garden debris after the vegs are done for the season.
  • The second layer can be animal manure, fertilizer, or organic igniter to provide a nitrogen source for the pile.
  • Lastly, the third layer is simply top soil

Within 2 weeks a good compost pile will reach 110-160 degrees and that is when you can add additional compostable materials to your pile. Add materials, turn over and mix well. Continue this process after each rain. If it does not rain at least weekly, you will need to water the pile. It is best if to use collected rain water if you can, otherwise use the same source for your garden. Throughout the winter, continue to water the pile and protect it from snow and ice accumulation. Remember, do not over water- you don’t want it too wet. Cover the pile with blanket, just nothing plastic. During winter months only add kitchen scraps to the pile - nothing else is needed, just be sure to aerate the pile when adding scraps.


Learn about composting in Austin, TX.

Feel free to send in any problems you may be having with your pile before next spring.

Photo Credits: Kristy Hall & Joi Ito

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