Outdoor composting is a lot like cooking – there are a lot of different ways to do it and you can put a lot of time into something fancy and elaborate or just pile the material in a corner and let nature do its thing. The simplest method is to create an open bin, although it is easy to follow the steps from the indoor composting guide and simply keep the bin outside in a shaded place. If you are looking to do outdoor composting though, odds are that you are thinking more along the lines of an open bin, which makes it much easier to handle creating a large compost pile.
Outdoor Composting Guide
Start by fencing off an area as large as you think you will use with fencing – wire is better to keep out rodents who might be attracted to the food scraps, but plastic garden fencing will work as well. Once your bin is complete, begin adding material by placing a 4 inch layer of bedding like coarse material like brush, tree trimmings or stemmed plants in the bottom. As food scraps, yard clippings and other compostable materials become available, add this to the bin, keeping a balance of green and brown material and monitoring the moisture. If you live in a wet area, it may be necessary to cover the bin with a tarp to keep it from getting too wet. Likewise if you live in a very dry area, it will probably be necessary to water your pile. Remember that the pile should be moist, not soaked. Turning the pile is very helpful to speed the process, ensuring uniform spread of material and moisture. Turning will also aerate the pile, making sure the process has enough oxygen to work effectively. There is no need to add worms to an outdoor compost pile, nature will supply a diverse set of workers to do the work for you for free. Once you have a rich, dark, earthy material, you know that your bin has done its work and is ready for use.
As with indoor composting, some people get it right the first time, others require a little trial and error before achieving good results. Troubleshooting an outdoor pile is a little different from an indoor bin, but some things remain the same. Foul smells are an indication that there is too much moisture, green material or that food scraps aren’t buried well enough. Adding dry material to dry the bed and covering food scraps should eliminate this problem. If you notice ants in your pile, this is usually a sign that the bed is too dry, add more green material or water to moisten your bed. Maggots and other larvae are often beneficial, but you can minimize the amount you get in your pile by keeping food scraps covered with bedding.
Following these simple steps can begin you on your way to composting and once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move on to more advanced techniques such as hugelkulture, the practice of growing and composting on raised beds of rotting wood or other more advanced techniques.