Set-ups for a compost pile range from simple to elaborate.
Basic compost heap—Simply pile and mix the compost materials on the ground. Cover the pile when it rains to prevent it from getting too wet or losing nutrients to leaching. Turn the heap regularly (every week or two). Building the pile over a layer of scrap plastic pipes drilled with holes allows for air penetration from below and reduces the need for turning.
Compost pit—Pits are ideal for composting materials consisting mostly of food scraps. Dig a hole in the ground, add the materials, mix with soil in the hole, and refill the hole with at least 8 inches of soil. Fallow areas of your garden are good places for compost pits.
Holding units—Bins help to contain the compost heap, keep it out of sight, and can make it easier to turn. They can be made of concrete blocks, wire mesh, or wood (although wood may lead to termite problems). If the bin is a movable type, it can be lifted from the pile and placed next to it when it is time for turning; just shovel the heap back into the empty bin. Old garbage cans can be used as holding units if they have enough large holes to allow air to circulate and holes in the bottom to allow water to drain.
Turning units—Some commercial composting units feature rotating barrels that make mixing the pile easier and reduce the use of shovels or forks for turning. Another way to make turning easier is to build two or three adjacent holding units. The first is filled with the new pile. When the pile is turned, it is shifted into the next bin. By the third turning, the pile is usually on its last month of decomposition.
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