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Building a compost pile is a great beginner gardening project that will also provide plenty of benefits. After time and exposure to the elements, organic matter will naturally break down on its own. Composting is an easy way to help speed up the process, provide nutrients for plants, build up the soil, and keep valuable resources from going to waste.

Here are some steps you can take to build your own compost pile:

  1. Choose a location for your foundation – Choose a place for your compost pile that is easy to access but also out of direct sight, if you would prefer that others don’t see it. Also, make sure it is within reach of your gardening hose in case water needs to be added during dry times.
  2. Start your pile at the right time – You can set up your pile any time of the year, but it’s better to have both plentiful nitrogen and carbon materials available.
  3. Decide how you want to contain it – A simple mound is the easiest way – just throw everything that you want to compost into a pile and let it rot. You can also close off your pile with rocks, fencing, boards, etc. Another efficient option is to use a composting bin.
  4. Know what to and not to put in your pile – You can compost almost anything that rots, but some foods like cheese and meat won’t decay properly and shouldn’t be included in your compost. When in doubt, take some time to research what you can and can’t include.
  5. Balance carbon and nitrogen materials – Experts recommend 60% of the pile be carbon (dead/brown/dried out material) and 40% nitrogen (green).
  6. Layer the pile – Layer your materials with a light mist of water between each individual layer. Add twigs or another coarse material every 8 inches or so to allow for proper air flow.
  7. Maintain the pile – Occasionally stir the pile by using a pitchfork and lifting the middle to the outer edges of the pile. Make sure the center of the pile is warm and evenly moist, but not soaked as it will also cause the pile to smell rotten.
  8. Troubleshoot and fix any recurring issues – Common composting problems like the pile getting too hot or smelling off typically occur; take time to properly diagnose these problems and adjust your maintenance as needed.

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