Square foot gardening relies largely on the quality of the soil in which the plants are grown. One third of this soil should be good quality compost, and your own compost is generally the best.
Best Location for Your Compost Pile
A cool shaded position is best, where it can be kept moist, fairly well contained and where it can be turned easily. If the top surface of the compost pile dries out it could slow the whole process down. If there are trees near to the compost pile you might find that their roots will be attracted towards the pile, so avoid this if possible.
What to Put in Your Compost Pile
A compost pile will accept just about any organic material except dairy products and animal products. For best results, use a wide variety of materials for composting and cut them into small pieces. Avoid using diseased plants. Although many diseases are killed off by the heat in a compost pile, there is no guarantee. It is also wise not to try to compost any weed seed heads. If you have a lot to compost it might be best to have two smaller piles than one large one. A compost pile 3 feet high and 3 feet wide is easy to manage. Don’t forget that you need to turn the compost regularly for best effect.
How to Build Your Compost Pile
Although a simple loose pile will work, a compost pile functions better if it is contained in a regular shape. A composting bin would be ideal, but you could build a framework to support a container built from chicken wire. The main point is that the pile is easily turned and has good ventilation. Try to vary the materials you place in the pile. Anything green, leafy or of vegetable origin (like food scraps) can be added. Dried lawn clippings can be an excellent aid to ventilation and reducing the water content of the pile if it has become too moist. Lawn clippings should be added in small quantities and mixed into the pile to prevent them forming a solid layer that would stifle the ventilation of the pile. If you are adding woody material to the pile, cut it small. Adding wood ash in an equal amount will help the process.
How to Work Your Compost Pile
A compost pile will not work well if it is not tended regularly. Two very important aspects of composting are maintaining a level of dampness within the pile and creating good ventilation by turning the pile on a regular basis. Turning a pile consisting of material that has been chopped small is similar to mixing cement. You just take a spade full and invert it, dig it in and then repeat. This is very easy with the recommended small piles. A sign that your composting is being successful is a gradual build up if heat in the pile.
As composting progresses you will notice that the pile will shrink. When fully composted a pile may be half the size it started out at.