Starting a compost heap is easier than you may think. Getting compost to the finished stage, quickly, is just as easy. Follow these steps and you will have completely finished and ready to use compost in just 14 days:
Day 1: Loosen up the dirt area with a heavy pitch fork or roto-tiller where you want the compost pile to live for the next two weeks. Saturate the ground with water and let it soak in.
Your first layer should be at least five to six feet wide and as long as you think you can physically handle every three days. Start making alternate layers with grass clippings or other green wastes, then brown materials like straw, dried twigs or shredded bark or mulch. Include household vegetable scraps and manures as well.
Wet each layer, adding just enough moisture to soak the layer thoroughly. Build your layers at least five to six feet wide at the base, building up in a trapezoid shape to at least four feet square at the top of the pile.
Continue to layer and moisten the pile. Build the pile up to approximately five feet tall. Wet down the entire outside surface, once your pile is complete.
I've covered the outside of the completed heap with a thick layer of manure that then gets wet down. Since I raise rabbits, I have a ready source of manure on hand. Drive a six foot tall stake into the ground. Don't drive it too deeply, as you'llneed to remove it in a few days.
Day 2: The pile should begin to heat up. With the mass of the pile, more than one cubic yard, the pile will heat up on its own. The pile will begin to break down and you'll notice some settling. If you stick your fingers in around the stake in the center of the pile, you can feel the warmth. Ideally, you need the heap to heat up to at least 140 degrees to start killing off bad pathogens. Don't let it get much hotter than that, or you'll start killing off the good bacteria.
Day 3: First chop with a mattock or a turning with a pitch fork! Remove the entire outside layer of material and put it out of the way for now. Chop the rest of the pile, making sure you get a thorough turning of the material. Replace the material that was the outside layer into the center and wet it down. Put the pile back up around the stake, one foot at a time and wet down each foot tall layer.
Day 4 and 5: The heap will start to break down and settle once again. It will get hot, heating up to 140 degrees again. Use a thermometer to check the temperature. Remove the stake to allow for good air movement from the center of the pile.
Day 6: Second Chop! Repeat Day 3 steps. Add water as needed. Re-set the stake into the center of the pile.
Day 7 and 8: The heap will be smaller still, as it breaks down. Continue to check the temperature.
Day 9: Third chop! Repeat Day 3 steps. Add water as needed. Re-set the stake. You'll notice that I have moved my pile into a bin area to help the area look a little neater.
Day 10 and 11: You'll notice the original material has decayed very well, but is not quite ready yet. Watch your temperatures.
Day 12: Final Chop! Repeat Day 3 step. Re-set the stake and wet down the outside surface lightly.
Day 13: At the end of the day, remove the stake and check the temperature of the pile. It should be below 110 degrees.
Day 14: At the end of the day, you should be able to use this compost. You can screen the material or just use as a side dressing for your fruits and vegetables or to make a bigger compost pile by layering compost between the green and brown layers.
Making compost with this 14 day method is easy, but is more difficult and time consuming the bigger the pile becomes. Keep your pile at a manageable size of about one to one and a half cubic yards. You'll find great joy in the physical work-out, and even greater joy knowing you just kept your yard wastes out of the landfill.