Building the Pile

Steps for Building Your Compost Pile

There are as many different ways to make compost as there are people who do it. The following guidelines will get you started, but soon your own experience will help you tailor a method that best fits your needs.

  1. Build or purchase a compost bin. Call the Recycling Office a 225.389.5194 to receive copies of bin plans or information on discounted bin sales. Set the bin up in a convenient area with good drainage.
  2. Start with a layer of woody, bulky material to allow air passage in the base of the pile. Add alternating layers of “brown” and “green” materials at a ratio of 4:1, with a shovelful of soil on top of each layer. Shredding leaves and trimmings will shorten the composting time. Be sure to bury chopped food scraps in the center of the pile. Add water to keep pile as damp as a wrung out sponge.
  3. Turn the pile. Keep oxygen available to the compost critters by turning the pile with a hoe or compost turning tool each time you add material. A complete turning of the pile, so the top becomes the bottom, every few months should result in finished compost in 6 months to a year. More frequent turning will shorten the composting time.

Compost Troubleshooting

If the pile is not composting it may be too dry or have too much woody material. Moisten until slightly damp. Add fresh green material and turn. If the pile smells rotten and attracts flies it may be too wet or have non-compostables present. Turn and add dry material. Remove any meat or grease, large food scraps, etc. and then turn.

If the pile smells like ammonia then there is too much green material. Turn and add dry or woody material. If rodents get into the pile, rodent proof by having holes less than 1/4 inch.