How Do You Maintain a Compost Heap

How Do You Maintain a Compost Heap


Many people who have gardens have a large amount of organic waste, from grass clippings to leaves and dead plants. Unfortunately, many waste money and time having these byproducts transported to a landfill. It isn’t just a waste of good compost; it’s a waste of everything that goes into the process of transporting it to the recycling site. It is truly a travesty. All this organic material that people are trying to get rid of can be a better supplement for your garden than any fertilizer or chemical.

If you properly facilitate the decomposition of all of the garbage, it will alter chemically until it is in such a state that it can be nothing but beneficial nutrition for other plants. Therefore, you can turn all the stuff you would have thrown away into top grade fertilizer for your garden. Usually compost is maintained in a pile somewhere in your backyard. Sometimes the thought of a compost heap brings disturbing images to one’s mind; heaps of rotten garbage emitting a horrid odor. However, if you maintain it correctly, you’ll be able to produce great compost without producing an offensive odor. When I first began my compost pile in an effort to improve environmental health, I made several major errors. These included preventing the pile from getting the oxygen it truly needed and keeping it too dry. It ended up decomposing in a very non-beneficial way and producing an odor so foul that I had government agents knocking at my door.


When you are choosing your spot where you will be putting all of the garden waste, you should aim for a higher square footage. Having a really deep pile of compost is not a good idea, because generally the deeper sections won’t be exposed to anything that is required for the process to work. It is better to spread it all out over a large area. If you have a shed or a tool shack of some sort, it is a possibility to spread it over the roof (with boards to keep it from falling off, of course). I have seen this done several times, and it helps keep the pile out of the way while still maintaining a large square footage.


A compost heap can consist of any organic garbage from your yard, garden or kitchen. This includes leaves, grass, any leftover food that won’t be eaten, or newspaper (no more than a fifth of your pile should consist of newspaper, due to it having a harder time composting with the rest of the materials). Usually if you have a barrel devoted to storing all of these things, it will fill up within several weeks. It is quite easy to obtain compost, but the hard part truly comes in getting it to decompose. After you have begun to get a large assortment of materials in your compost heap, you should moisten the whole pile. This encourages the process of composting. Also chop every element of the pile into the smallest pieces possible. As the materials start to compress and meld together as they decompose, you need to frequently head outside and aerate the pile. You can use a shovel to mix it all up, or an aeration tool to poke dozens of tiny holes into it. In order to make sure that your compost heap has adequate ventilation and oxygen circulation, you of course can go the shovel and pitchfork route, but a much easier way is to use a power driven auger. Typically, these tools are 3” in diameter and come in various lengths and can be attached to a portable or battery operated hand drill. They are also the best garden tools for planting seedlings, tulip bulbs, and daffodils. These items are made by several manufacturers such as Power Planter, Ames, Lichter, Jissco, Hiltex, 7 Penn, and Yard Butler and Tech Team We like Tech Teams because they offer 2 different augers so depending on the depth of your compost heap, one of them can do the perfect job. The 777 is 3” wide by 9” long and attaches easily to a 3/8” power drill The item 778 is 3” wide by 24” long and also attaches to a standard 3/8” power drill and will give you an opportunity to aerate to the lowest levels of your compost heap to ensure perfect aeration. Doing this will increase the oxygen flow to each part of the pile, and oxygen is required for any decomposition to take place. If you do a Hey Alexa or Hey Siri search for “Oxygen requirements for a compost heap” you can get a better feel for how you should aerate.


If maintaining a compost pile sounds like something that would interest you, start considering the different placement options. The hardest part about maintaining a pile is choosing a spot that provides enough square footage without intruding on the rest of your yard or garden. While usually you can prevent the horrible odors that most people associate with compost heaps, it’s still not a pleasant thing to have to look at whenever you go for a walk in your garden.