The Vegetable Garden

Composting The Easy Way - Page 2

Because I don’t turn the pile, I can’t expect all of the material to rot completely. The material in the center is going to break down more than the material on the edges, but most of it does break down quite well. The next step works great for me because I’ve got a small nursery, so I keep a pile of potting soil on hand at all times. But you can really do the same thing by just buying two or three yards of shredded mulch to get started, and piling it up near your compost bins. If you do this, you will always have a supply of good compost to work with.

Shredded bark, left in a pile will eventually break down and become great compost. The potting soil that I use is about 80% rotted bark. I make potting soil by purchasing fine textured, and dark hardwood bark mulch, and I just put it in a pile and let it rot. The secret is to keep the pile low and flat, so that it does not shed the rain water away. You want the mulch to stay as wet as possible, this will cause it to break down fairly quickly.

So I keep a pile of rotted bark mulch near my compost bins. When both bins are completely full, I empty the bin containing the oldest material by piling it on top of my rotted bark mulch. I make sure the pile of rotted mulch is wide and flat on top so that when I put the material from the compost bin on top of the pile, the compost material is only 5 to 10 inches thick.

My mulch pile might be 12’ wide, but it may only be 24 to 30 inches high. Once I have all the compost on top of the pile, then I go around the edge of the pile with a shovel, and take some of the material from the edges of the pile and toss it up on top of the pile, covering the compost with at least 6” of rotted bark. This will cause the compost material to decompose the rest of the way.

Once you get this system started, you never want to use all of the material in the pile. Always keep at least 2 to 3 cubic yards on hand so you’ve got something to mix with your compost. If you use a lot of compost material like I do, then you should buy more material and add to your pile in the late summer or fall, once you are done using it for the season.

Around here many of the supply companies sell a compost material that is already broken down quite well. This is what I buy to add to my stock pile. But I try to make sure that I have at least 3 yards of old material on hand, then I’ll add another 3 yards of fresh material to that. Then in the spring I’ll empty one of the compost bins and add the compost to the top of the pile.

The pile of usable compost will be layers of material, some more composted than others. Kind of like a sandwich. So what I do is chip off a section of the pile from the edge, spread it out on the ground so it’s only about 8” deep, then run over it with my small rototiller. This mixes it together perfectly, and I shovel it onto the potting bench.

Having a pile of rotted compost near your compost bins is great because if you have a lot of leaves or grass clippings, you can throw some rotted compost in the bin in order to maintain that layered effect that is necessary in order for the composting process to work well.

Sure this process is a little work, but it sure is nice to have a place to get rid of organic waste any time I like. Then down the road when I have beautiful compost to add to my potting soil, I am grateful to have done the right thing
earlier, and I know that I have wasted nothing.

Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most interesting website, and sign up for his excellent gardening newsletter. Article provided by