Composting is a natural occurrence, and is something that happens every day all around us. Composting can normally be completed in one season if done properly, and should only require a light sifting before use.
The best method for creating compost is to simply is to have an equal amount of greens and browns, or wets and drys, in your compost pile. This requires attention to detail when putting on layers. Attention must also be paid to ensuring airflow, and this is normally why the bottom layer of the compost pile should normally consists of boards or sticks to help alternate the raise of the pile from the ground. Immediately on top of the sticks should be a 1-2 inch layer of straw or dry materials, then 1-2 inches of wet materials like food waste or grass clippings. The wet/dry or green/brown alternation should continue for 20-30 layers, then place 3-4 inches of straw or dry material on top to cap the pile.
Here are a few examples of alternation methods in compost piles:
These are both good examples of how compost pile should look. You should also ensure that the pile is properly moistened (between 20-30 gallons of water just before capping if you’re capping in early summer or spring time should suffice, 10 gallons if you’re in the fall when you cap) and around 4-5 feet tall when you cap it with a 3-4 inch layer of straw.
Compost piles should be turned two times per year to ensure that they’re alive and to jump-start the heating process. In northern climates this should be done in the latter half of fall to ensure the pile stays warm as long as possible through the hard winter months, and in early spring to get the pile working again. In southern climates this should be done in the dead of winter, and in mid summer as needed with a healthy dose of liquid to moisten the pile.
When you’re ready to harvest your compost (normally 7-12 months depending upon materials, weather, etc) you’ll need to give it a light sifting before applying the soil to your garden. The easiest way to do this is to to build a small soil sifter (normally just some wire mesh screen stapled to a few boards) and lay it on top of a wheelbarrow. This is mainly done to remove any uncomposted items or large pieces of compost that are not yet ready for the garden. See example below:
Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions!