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#113 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 1

I decided to start a new compost pile and use it as a step-by-step guide to show how easy it is for anyone to take yard waste like leaves and grass cuttings and turn it into useful nutritious organic compost to use on your garden, flowers or plants.


For a compost pile to work properly in an active-compost system, also called hot-composting, four things are required:

  • Nitrogen

  • Carbon

  • Oxygen

  • Water

To allow proper airflow to the compost I am using 36"x36"x30" green powder coated wire cages that I purchased on Amazon and have installed side by side in my back yard. Each one of these cages come with 4 side panels and 4 anchor pins to attach the side panels in the corners.

By setting the three cages up next to each other I was able to end up with three four-sided cages and one additional three-sided cage with the extra left over parts. I will be utilizing the three four-sided cages for active compost piles in different stages of their decomposition. The additional three-sided cage I will be utilizing to store my completed compost until I am ready to use it.

I start off by putting a layer of leaves and dead plant waste which is full of carbon.

On top of the leafy carbon layer I add a layer of grass clippings which are loaded with nitrogen.

After adding each layer onto the pile I soak the pile down with water thoroughly before adding the next layer.

I continue to add the layers . . . 

Continuing to soak the pile between each layer . . . 

I ran out of leaves to use for the carbon layer, so I added shredded paper and cardboard, which is also the same carbon as leaves. Remember, paper and cardboard is made from trees so it works quite well in a compost. Shredded paper will soak up a lot of water so make sure you soak the pile well until you see water running out the bottom of the pile.



I will be turning this pile over every other day over the next three to four weeks as the materials decompose, and I will walk you through each step as we go. The temperature in the center of the pile should be somewhere between 120 (actually 122) and 160 degrees Fahrenheit when I check on it in two days. That temperature increase shows that the decomposition process is happening and that is when the pile needs to be turned over to keep that cycle going. We will discuss that further in the next update on Day-3.




Second Compost Pile Test


I often hear people say that you should not use green leaves in a hot-compost system, that you have to wait for them to turn brown before they can be used. I have also been told that you should not use citruc cuttings because of the acidity, which is completely incorrect.