How to make a compost pile

Composting is nature’s way of cycling organic material into nutrient rich, fertile soil. How to make a compost pile
Compost is natures gift to the off-grid, organic farmer. Many of us know the benefits of using compost as an organic fertilizer, but not all know how to make a compost pile.

Compost is decayed organic material. By starting your own compost pile, you will basically accelerate the decaying process in a controlled way to end up with the desired result of having your own organic fertilizer to use in your garden. The process is very simple.

You may either choose to make compost in a small scale in a compost bin, or if you have enough space, you can make compost in a pile.

Compost bins are readily available from gardening shops or online outlets.

The same principles apply, whether you choose to make compost in a bin, or if you choose to produce it on a larger scale by starting a pile.

1 Choose the right spot:

Your composting plant will need a good couple of weeks to mature. Make sure you select the perfect spot for it.

The best place is a well-drained area with part shade and part sun during the day. My favorite spot is the summer-shade area of a large tree, especially if there was a leafy layer under the tree.

Normally the soil underneath the tree will already be composted and it will be naturally rich in earthworms. This will of cause only benefit the process if you opt for starting out a compost pile,  as a bin will form a barrier between the compost and ground soil.

2 Get the worms in:

As mentioned before, composting is a natural process. Therefore, don’t shy away from the fact that you need to invite worms into your compost plant. If you don’t have the benefit of having the perfect spot in your garden where you know earthworms are active, you can buy composting worms from gardening outlets. A good example of these worms is Tiger Worms (Eisenia Fetida).

What the worms do, is they eat away the organic waste that you add to your compost pile and in return they are excreting nutrient rich liquid into the pile. The worms create pathways that helps airing the pile and also assist in creating a sponge like substance which retains moist.

3 What to add to your compost pile?

All organic material can be composted, but some just works better than others.
Be careful not to create a “wet pile” by putting  too much kitchen waste in the form of vegetable peels, fruit waste, food scrapings etc in your pile.

If the pile is a bit wet, get the balance right by adding plant and tree leaves, prunings and grass cuttings. Careful though not to add too much grass cuttings.

Other things that are good for your compost pile, includes:
– crushed egg shells,
– teabags,
– paper shreddings &
– wood shavings

4 How to pack your pile and work it:

Start with the rougher sticky, leafy, dryer materials at the bottom.
Then work upwards with the materials as it gets finer and add the wettest materials on top.
If you had a previous compost pile, add some of the old compost back into the new pile to activate the process.
Add the soldiers (compost worms) to the your pile.
Add “fresh” material on a regular base.
Turn the heap with a pitchfork at least every week.
Make sure the material is properly turned to ensure even composting.
Be careful with moisture. Too little moist will reduce the process, while too much moist will result in a soggy rotting pile.
If the pile gets soggy, add more dry material like leaves and paper shreds.

5 Avoid adding the following:

Don’t add meat scraps, fish,  eggs, dairy products and other protein foods.
These will attract rodents / cats or stray dogs.
Don’t add dog poo, poultry- or pig manure or faeces to your pile.

6 Be aware of:

–    Not starting too small.
The process needs a critical mass to be successful.
–    Managing the moist content.
A dry pile is not composting.
–    Turning the pile constantly.
–    The Pile might get hot!!
When you notice that the contents of the decomposing pile is getting a temperature, it is time to celebrate. This means that the process is “healthy” and very active. Don’t be concerned. Just turn it, open it up a bit and air the composting material.

7 Relax:

This is a natural process that you’re helping along. You can’t really mess it up. If it is not working, check your moist, turn it again and add what it takes.

8 Result:

In about eight weeks +, you will have dark brown, flaky, nutrient rich composted soil.

This is the best of the best organic fertilizer that nature has to give and it only takes a bit of effort to have it made.

You now have  rich compost that is ideal for organic vegetable farming.

A last and closing thought:

You may even consider selling your compost in support of your off-grid lifestyle.

Your comments will be appreciated.

Any questions?    …I will answer all from the comments section.

Cobus vdM /














11 thoughts on “How to make a compost pile

  • 02/05/2017 at 19:19

    This is an interesting article,as i am a keen gardener myself compost is very important. Most people tend to buy from garden centres but your article should entice them to make their own compost, by natural resources.
    10 out of 10 . well done.

    • 02/05/2017 at 20:44

      Thanks Andrew, Your comment is appreciated.
      Compost can made with little or no cost.
      Most people don’t realize how easy it is.
      …enjoy your gardening projects.

  • 02/05/2017 at 21:54

    So I had tried composting several times with no success. I am very excited to try again. But one question I have is can I use paper that I have shredded if it has ink on it? And also how do you get the produce (the wet stuff) to break down so fast? It seems like that is what attracts the pesky friends to my compost pile and if they don’t bother it then my pile stays kind of chunky instead of breaking down like it should. Thanks for any help in advance.

    • 02/05/2017 at 22:29

      Hi Kim, Thanks for your comment.
      As mentioned in the post, composting is a natural process that we’re just helping along a bit.
      You can use paper with ink on it. I have used shredded paper from office print in the past with great success.
      If you have difficulty in staring out with the method explained in the post, try the following:
      Tree leaves in Autumn is a great source to start with. Add some paper shreds and grass cuttings to it and turn the pile every week for the first 3 weeks or so. Keep the moist up by adding a little water twice a week. Start adding the wet stuff from the kitchen after two/three weeks and work it into the pile as you add it.
      Keep on turning the whole pile over with a pitch fork at least once a week. If possible, add compost worms if you can find any. Once you had success, add some of your “old” compost to a new pile when you start again.
      It will work 🙂 Good luck

  • 02/05/2017 at 23:06

    Okay, I tend to let my compost get too dry and I don’t have enough worms. I also need to mix it up a bit as well. What is this… confession time? Anyway, thanks for humbling me. I got to go and work on my compost…
    Thanks for the tips.

    • 02/05/2017 at 23:14

      LOL!! The intention wasn’t to humble you Tony 🙂
      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you found a few pointers.
      ….enjoy working your pile.

  • 03/05/2017 at 01:27

    My mother wondered about the best place for a compost pile and I will suggest shade of a tree. It is almost summer so I think it will be perfect.

    • 03/05/2017 at 11:34

      Thanks for your comment Furkan,
      All the best and success on the project 🙂

  • 20/05/2017 at 16:04

    OK….so you have me laughing at myself today. Thanks for some great information. I certainly learned a lot this morning. Here is what I have been doing:

    Take my kitchen peelings and place them in a container inside the laundry room.

    At the end of the week, I take it outside and add it to a bin with soil and leaves.

    I cover with a layer of dirt and leaves and then I place the lid on the bin.

    Next week I start all over again. When the bin is full, I place the “compost” around my plants and trees. I then tell myself they are happy. They do look healthy and give me great tasting and healthy looking fruits. But, I will try your suggestions.

    Thanks for sharing. Much appreciated.

    • 20/05/2017 at 17:55

      WOW, so you were practicing this all along Josephine!!
      Thanks for adding your practical experience to the post.

  • 27/01/2019 at 02:20

    great article im a novice and would love to grow my own food


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