Kitchen Gardening

A Starter Compost Heap

Build an enclosure, add plant material, collect your veggie scraps, and toss them in. Nature will take care of the rest.

Set between a raspberry trellis and a brush pile is an inobtrusive compost heap made from four fence posts and welded wire fencing..
Photo/Illustration: Ruth Dobsevage

Composting gets a lot of buzz these days, and why not? It’s an easy way to put kitchen waste to good use. Instead of clogging landfills, you’ll be creating a nutrient-rich amendment for your vegetable and flower beds.

When I got involved in gardening many moons ago, I was busy with young children. Large chunks of free time were hard to come by, so I did what I could. I cobbled together an enclosure out of readily available materials and tossed in some leaves and kitchen scraps. I rarely turned it or paid much attention to carbon/nitrogen ratios, but nonethess, compost happened.

My first compost heaps were made from discarded wood pallets nailed or wired together at the corners and wrapped in chicken wire, with a removable section as the “gate.” These worked fine for as long as the wood held up. What I use now is even simpler: welded wire fencing and four fence posts. There’s no real gate, just an opening in the fence that can be wired shut.

In the kitchen, garbage is separated into three types: recyclable, throwaway, and veggie. The veggie can is lined with a paper grocery bag, and when it fills up, it goes straight to the compost heap. I bury the new material; but in winter that’s not possible. So I do it when I can.

When I pull weeds or remove spent plants  from the garden, they go in the compost heap as well, along with dead leaves in the fall. I still don’t balance the carbon/nitrogen content, so the pile doesn’t really heat up (though I occasionally detect a slight warmth). Nonetheless, compost happens.

Of course, you can take a more organized, disciplined approach to composting and study the subject in depth if you choose. A Web search for information on composting will turn up a lot of good sites geared to the home gardener, such as Composting 101. You can also find a lot of detailed articles on composting and compost bins at Or you can just begin as I did and refine the process when you have time or inclination.

Build an enclosure, add plant material, collect your veggie scraps, and toss them in. Nature will take care of the rest.

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