This summer the compost heap got away from me. It kept growing and I only turned it once. So I had lots of leaves to incorporate into the active compost heap. So with the weather so beautiful, it was time to turn it and add the leaves piled around the fenced compost. My design is really simple. It is contained by a four foot diameter circle of fencing and when I am ready to turn the pile, I just lift the fencing off, set it next to the pile and start re-filling. This time I left the current pile alone except for the very top which had not yet broken down at all. I started filling with that to about two feet deep along with a few large sticks to ensure air circulation into the middle of the pile on the bottom and then added a handful of Blood Meal. Since I have lots of brown stuff and not very much green stuff, the Blood Meal adds the nitrogen needed for the pile to “cook” and break down all the stuff. More leaves from the ground around the pile to another two feet and another handful of Blood Meal.
I alternate brown stuff and Blood Meal until the pile is about 5-6 feet tall. This seems high but as the stuff breaks down, the pile will shrink. I cover it with a kiddie pool that I use for all sorts of things and let it sit.
As for the compost that is now ready, this is what you are looking for: I like to sift through the finished compost and remove any plastic or trash that has found its way into the pile and also get rid of any larger sticks that are still intact. You can add these to the new compost and they will eventually break down but usually I just throw them away. They have done their job by letting air circulate to the middle of the pile and I have no shortage of sticks. The compost will be spread in all my beds and also anywhere I need to add soil or bulk. This year I will be filling in around my pond and to the azaleas behind the pond as they were planted this year with lots of peat moss and the dirt has settled down around the plants so they need a little dirt. Plants can be set down into pure compost so I don’t even turn the soil to mix as long as the bed has already been worked. This is the secret to magazine quality plants. Compost. Even if you don’t compost yourself, you can purchase bags of it at any garden center. I add it fall and spring.
Happy gardening and remember to “bee” positive!