Simple Compost Pile

Hot is not how I would describe our family's backyard compost pile.  Warm, I hope.  Definitely not smelly, but not the hottest thing around.  The more I read how the experts explain composting, I don't think ours is cold or passive.  I do make an effort to turn it about once per week   But it's, well, simple at best.  My husband, skillful as he is, never found time to build one of those fancy corrals that some of you have.  At first, I thought we needed that.  But now that we're moving into our second gardening season with more compost material, I think what we have meets our needs. 

Tucked away in the woods, it looks more like a modest pile of leaves most days.  The pile  smells pleasant and earthy, one sign that it's working.  It's full of hard-working, happy earthworms.

Our most abundant brown or high-carbon material is dried leaves from the forest.  Our most abundant green or high-nitrogen material is fruit and vegetable peelings.  My goal is to make the compost organic, although that's not entirely the case yet.  Some produce we buy at the store is still conventional, so the peelings could contain residue.

I get a layer of dirt or wood chips or other exotic materials in there every one in a while.  Because it's not all neatly fenced, an occasional hungry raccoon steals away a peeling.  I doubt that the carbon-nitrogen ratio is perfect or that my lazy pile design would win any awards at the county fair.  But, it's working.  It's keeping gallons of peelings and eggshells out of the landfill.  And it is producing the start of this spring's gardening soil.  I got some encouragement recently about my sloppy compost pile from veteran gardener Loujuana Carter. I met Carter when she was volunteering at a greenhouse for the National Park Service.  Carter assured me that when it comes to composting and gardening in general, it's good to, "Keep it simple."  I appreciate the wisdom in that.  Keeping it simple has kept me from being too intimidated to try.  There are several helpful gardening resources that offer composting tips.  A good place to start reading about which materials can be composted is the Cooperative Extension Service

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