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Published on September 11th, 2013 | by Tara O'Brien


How to Create a Compost Pile: Semi-Static Compost Method

The stink of rotten food in the trash is something many people wish they could go without, and dealing with our food waste efficiently should be everyone’s concern. One way to do both of these things is to set up a home composting system. Many people use worm bins, however, if they are not maintained properly it can lead to even more unwanted smells around the house. This not only puts you off to composting, but also attracts animals that could destroy your home and garden. Using thermal composting is an option, but this requires a lot of attention and with winter coming soon, we aren’t going to want to be wandering around in the cold trying to flip piles or keep them at the correct temperature.

{Check out our post featuring some composting basics from Martha Stewart!}

Semi-Static composting allows you the freedom of not constantly monitoring your compost pile while keeping away animals at the same time. It gives you a reliable place to put your food scraps and creates a steady stream of usable compost. This is a good option to use during the growing season, it gives you time to work in the garden and not only focus on your compost. With static compost you are able to bury your food waste so that animals cannot smell the rotting food. Getting rid of food waste, keeping away critters, and creating compost for your home garden: you’ve got to love that closed loop system.


How to Build a Compost Pile using the Semi-Static method:

  1. Gather large sticks and branches from around your yard and heap them into a pile (about 5ft wide and 2ft tall) somewhere in the back corner. Close enough for it to be convenient to walk out with food waste, but far enough away so that it isn’t an eye soar. Make sure that the sticks are placed so that there is sufficient space for air to circulate. This is the bottom of your pile and we are trying to create a space for air to get at the bottom and keep your pile aerobic.
  2. Add a 5ft wide and 3ft tall layer of 50% green material mixed with 50% woody material. This would be half freshly fallen leaves or fresh cut grass mixed with half woodchips or straw, even newspaper or cardboard would work.
  3. Add in your food scraps to the bottom middle of the first layer (2ft in from the side and 2ft down from the top) and mark them with a flag so that you don’t use the same area twice. Do this until the area had about six areas flagged.
  4. Add another layer of 50% green and 50% woody material, the same at the last time. Once that layer is full allow about two weeks for the pile to process.
  5. Turn the pile after two weeks, if the pile appears homogenous and isn’t letting off steam feel free to add it to your garden. If not, turn every three days until the pile is homogenous and not releasing steam.

Once the pile is complete you can use it to brew compost tea, or just apply it directly to your beds as a mulch. Use about 1/2-inch of compost over your garden beds to quickly increase fertility. Once you have applied the compost make sure you remember to water– watering the compost on top of the beds will wash the microbes into the soil. This will give the microbes the transportation that they need to quickly make a home around the root systems of your favorite vegetables. Freeing up nutrients in the soil will give you larger, tastier, and healthier plants.

Healthier plants, less food waste with only a little bit of work? Who’s in?

Compost pile image from Shutterstock; compost word image from Shutterstock

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