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#142 - Do You Really Have To Build A Compost Pile In Layers?

Setting up a compost pile going by all of the rules that the "experts" have on composting is difficult.  All the so-called "experts" out there will tell you that you have to have just the right amount of "green materials" which are materials that have a higher nitrogen ratio, and just the right amount of "brown materials" which are materials which are higher in carbon. Then you need to add the green and brown materials in 4-inch alternating layers, wetting the pile down as you add each layer.

 

When adding the green and brown layers to the pile the "experts" will tell you that you have to precisely add three times as much brown material as you do green material. For every bucket full of nitrogen containing material you need to add three buckets of carbon containing material.

 

They will also say that you must build a compost pile that is a minimum of 3 cubic yards, or 3-feet tall by 3-feet wide by 3-feet deep. If the pile is not at least 3 cubic yards it will not be large enough to generate enough heat to kill off bad bacteria and weed seeds to create compost.

 

They will also tell you that you have to be careful and only use certain materials and to never add meat or dairy items to a compost pile or it will attract animals.

 

They also will tell you that in order to get a compost pile started quickly that you have to "inoculate" the pile with either some finished compost or manure.

 

Wow, so many rules. Let's actually take a closer look at what it takes to make compost and see if these rules are necessary or just someones way of trying to make your life more difficult than it has to be.

 

First, lets take a look at what elements are required for organic material to be broken down into compost. There are four things that are required, which are Nitrogen, Carbon, Water, and Oxygen. That's it, that is all it takes. As long as you have enough of those four things you can make compost. Too much water means you do not have enough oxygen, too much nitrogen means you do not have enough carbon, etc. All four things have to be in balance with each other for a compost pile to work.

 

Ok, so, what about the size of the compost pile? No, I did not mention anything about the size of the compost pile being a requirement for the pile because that has absolutely nothing to do with it. The compost pile does NOT have to be at least 3-foot tall by 3-foot wide by 3-foot deep in order to generate enough heat to make compost. The pile does not generate any heat at all, it is the micro-organisms inside the pile that are breaking down the compost materials that are generating the heat. The more bacteria and other microbes you have in the pile working, the more heat is generated.

 

Every tablespoon full of compost material will contain thousands of individual bacteria. Bacteria is on everything already, we do not have to wait for it to "find the pile" as we do for other microbiological organisms. They are already there and ready to go to work as soon as the conditions are favorable, which we will be doing by creating the pile and wetting it down. There is absolutely no need to "inoculate" a pile to get enough bacteria in the pile for it to start working quickly. There are more than enough bacteria within the pile already because bacteria covers everything on Earth.

 

To test these preconceived notions of what a compost pile has to consider of and how it has to be setup I have set up a new experimental compost pile, but I