Building an Autumn Compost Pile

Posted by Joseph Salvatore on 14th Nov 2018

“Take care of the waste on the farm and turn it into useful channels’ should be the slogan of every farmer.”        ~ George Washington Carver

  In the microbial world of the soil food web fallen leaves provide habitat, sources of nutrition, and can be a valuable resource to any small-farm or garden. Gathering this feast can be a task but is well worth the effort and will provide countless rewards for your landscaping, turf, compost heaps and garden beds. There are many methods and formulas to make great compost, start with the gifts from your home, neighborhood and local resources, supplement any missing elements and within a few short months the rewards of good earth will be plenty.

Use 35% brown materials, 35% fresh green materials, and 30% fresh manure if available. If manure is not available use 50% brown and 50% green materials.

~ Brown: Fallen Leaves, Straw or Hay (use old semi-rotted sources)
~ Green: Grass Clippings, Stinging Nettles, Comfrey, or any available fresh green materials
~ Manures: Cow, Horse, Chicken, Rabbit, Alpaca, Llama, & Swine are all worth considering.
~ Local resources for consideration: Brewery Waste (Mash), Coffee Grounds

  • Build in layers 3 – 4” thick with the organic materials gathered from your local area.
    • 3 - 4" of brown, 3 - 4" of green, 3 - 4" of manure
  • Apply a thin layer of organic steel cut oats to each layer. This will help to feed fungi and aid in producing great compost.
    • You can substitute rolled oats or oat flour but it is not as effective.
    • If you have a local brewery or home brew enthusiast in you local area see if you can gather a bucket or two of fresh grain mash to replace the oats.
      • Collect this and use fresh before alcohol fermentation begins.
  • Lightly dust each layer with an available rock powder such as; Azomite
  • Optional ingredients: If you are seeking to enhance a particular nutrient that is generally lacking in your soils ie; Phosphorus, Potassium, or Calcium then consider adding a dusting to each layer.
  • Optional ingredient: Coffee Grounds, apply lightly to each layer if available.
    • Collect one day in advance and use fresh
  • Water each layer with a good balanced compost tea or compost extract (see below for recipe)
  • Build-up layers until your heap is roughly 4’ x 4’ x 4’ or slightly larger.
  • Cover your heap with a large sheet of wet cardboard to shed excessive water and prevent the loss of valuable nutrients.
    • You will need to weigh-down the cardboard to keep it in place.
  • Turn compost heaps 2 – 3 times over a 3 month period.
    • Allow your compost heap to mature for 3 weeks after its last turning.
    • If you do not wish to turn your compost heap then allow it to age for 6 – 9 months.