Starting a Compost Pile

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 25,479
    Master gardener Ed Bruske discusses how to start a compost pile for your garden.

    Ed Bruske

    An award-winning journalist for The Wasington Post in a previous life, Ed Bruske is a Master Gardener and president of D.C. Urban Gardeners, a group dedicated to the greening of the District of Columbia through public education and hands-on volunteer efforts. An accomplished public speaker, Ed focuses his lecture activities on composting and soil ecology. He practices daily organic recycling through composting and vermicomposting at his home about a mile from the White House, where he and his wife are transforming their corner lot into an edible landscape. Ed is a personal chef, caterer and chef-in-residence at The Washington Youth Garden, located at the U.S. National Arboretum in the District of Columbia. He also writes about composting and cooking from the garden on his blog, The Slow Cook,

    Hi, I am Ed Bruske with DC Urban Gardeners, we're here in my garden in the District of Columbia talking about composting. What you saw me doing there was just putting a layer of grass clippings that I clipped from my yard in the last couple of days and kept in this garbage can, putting that on the new compost pile that I have just recently started. Now, what I have at the very bottom of the pile are some weeds that I've pulled from the garden, and believe me, I have got plenty of those. No kitchen scraps yet. What I want to do is get the pile big enough, using some of my other materials before I actually start putting some kitchen scraps in there. So, I put down a layer of grass, as you remember from one of the earlier episodes, we talked about balancing nitrogen or green materials such as grass clippings with brown materials such as leaves. The leaves I shredded earlier, and I'm going to put a layer of leaves on that pile now, just over the grass clippings. So, now we have weeds, grass clippings and leaves. One of the things you want to think about at this point is that grass clippings, if you have a thick layer of those, they have a tendency to get wet and mat together, so that the water stays in the grass clippings, it doesn't filter through. That can lead to an anaerobic bacteria situation, where you start to get stinky and slimy grass in there. So, weve got the leaves that have all been chopped up. What I like to do at this point is to mix them up a little bit so that we don't get that matting happening in the compost pile. So, I would just be fluffing things with my fork spade, digging in there a little bit, lifting, twisting, to get the leaves mixed up with the grass, and even some of those weeds down there, pull those up so that theyre in the mix as well. Now that will help keep air in the pile, and keep the water flowing through the pile rather than setting in any one particular layer and creating problems. Now, what you would continue to do as you build your pile is add to that. I have a bucket of compost, you could use soil as well, but it's good to put some of that in there, because that actually introduces more of those bacteria that have been active, that keeps them in the pile, and just gets things working a little bit faster. So, continue that sort of thing; weeds, garden debris, grass clippings, leaves, other brown materials, even shredded newspaper or cardboard, for your brown materials, and you just keep building that up, adding a little bit of soil, giving a sprinkle of water in there, so it has some water, and pretty soon you're going to have a good, active compost pile for your garden. Next we're going to talk about what this compost does for your soil and plants in your garden.