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When I first decided to start composting I had a lot of problems to solve…or at least I thought I did. One of the major ones that had kept me from starting before was a location for my pile. Deciding where to start your compost pile is no small task. In fact, for many people, deciding on a composting location is such a hurdle that they never really get started!
We had just moved into a small house that we were going to be renting for the next year or two and, despite our teeny tiny yard, decided that we wanted to plant a garden. Our dirt was sandy and nutrient deficient beyond belief so we knew we had to fix it before planting.
The problem was, we didn’t have a fenced yard. Our yard was just a step above a shared yard. It was bordered on one side by a triplex and on another side by someone else’s yard. The triplex people had to walk on the edge of our yard to get to their doors throughout the day. So, in my mind, having a huge stinking festering pile of food, manure, and grass clippings composting in our back yard was probably out of the question.
If you’re looking to get into composting you probably have a lot of the same concerns I had when I was thinking about where to put my compost pile. Let’s crush those concerns:
Concern #1 My compost pile will smell terrible.
When I told an experienced composter about my “stink” concerns and wonderings about where to put my compost pile he asked me,
“Well, do you remember your trip to the world’s largest compost pile and how bad it stunk?”
I, like most people, figured he was talking about a landfill or the city dump. Pretty much how I though my compost pile would be. It turns out, the world’s largest compost pile is actually a forest! Rain forests in particular compost hundreds of millions of pounds of dead foliage/animals/etc. every year! And do they stink? No!
Properly tended, a compost pile will have minimal smell. If you are extremely concerned about this you can also consider an enclosed composting solution such as a tumbler or sealed bin. If your compost does start to smell, it is relatively easy to balance out your pile with the right ratios of nutrients that will keep decomposition moving without a stench.
Our compost tumbler sits about 30 feet from our kitchen window/back door and I don’t notice the smell unless we stick my head in it.
Concern #2 My compost pile will be an eyesore
This one…might be true. However, it didn’t end up being an issue for us. There are many ways to enclose your compost to make it more attractive. I expected my compost pile to look like a pile of festering garbage but, in reality, most compost piles look like a pile of leaves or dirty grass. Not Nearly as offensive.
If you have a small space, choosing an enclosed tumbler type of composter will be more attractive, less smelly, and produce much more compost.
Concern #3 My compost will attract bugs/maggots/pests/etc.
Let’s face it, the reason that you’re grossed out by maggots is that you associate them with festering decay. They are a natural little larva that aid in decomposition. They don’t stink, they don’t bite, they don’t spread, etc.
With that being said, you probably won’t/shouldn’t have too many maggots in your compost bin. A properly balanced pile will not be filled with maggots. Again, my decision on where to put my compost pile was distracted by the idea that my compost pile is a garbage pile. If you’ve never jumped into a pile of dry leaves and found maggots, you probably won’t find them in your compost either. Yes, there will be some maggots, which is fine. There will also be a plethora of other beetles, bugs, etc. Those bugs were probably around anyway and them congregating on your pile is actually helpful!
If maggots or bugs are particularly bothersome to you, you can get rid of them by keeping a slightly drier pile or sprinkling some organic garden lime powder which will discourage breeding.
Places to Put your Pile
Now that we’ve (hopefully) handles some of you concerns that would make you put your compost pile as far away from you as possible, let’s hit a couple of other points that will probably inform where you starting your compost pile:
Things to think about:
Proximity: If you are going to be composting kitchen scraps, you’ll probably want to make things as easy as possible. Meaning you shouldn’t place your compost pile in the back 40. We use a kitchen compost pail to gather scraps throughout the day but if our pile was too far from the house it would be an inconvenient chore to take things out all the time.
Composter Type: The type of composting your choose to do will be a main deciding factor in the spot you put your compost pile. People are typically more comfortable placing a compost tumbler near the house while a compost pile usually is more at home behind the shed. Also, if you are hot-composting, your pile will need turned/aerated/loved several times a week.
Heat/Sun: Sun dries out a pile (and you when you’re working on it). Compost piles are most at home in the shade where they can maintain their own levels of heat and moisture.
Moisture: Speaking of maintaining moisture, your pile will need some help every once in awhile. We located our pile far enough away that we have to drag our lawn-watering hose over to every time we need to hose it down.
Compost Volume: While this is heavily influenced by the type of composting your choose to do, some options will take up far more space than others. A hot compost pile typically needs to be around a cubic meter (think 3’x3’x3′) to generate enough heat to stay effective. Cold compost piles take up less space while bins and tumblers are obviously fully self-contained.
Where do you want the finished compost: Compost is heavy and not very fun to move. If you are going to use your compost in your garden you probably shouldn’t place it on the other side of your property. In fact, you can even compost right on top of your garden if you won’t be planting right away. That was none of the compost gets wasted and, when it’s ready, you can just spread it out and mix it in.
So, when it comes down to it, it’s hard to tell you what the best place to put your compost pile/tumbler is. You’ll need to place it close proximity to the things that matter most.
The most valuable lesson about compost pile placement:
When it comes to placing your compost pile, convenience takes precedence over perfection. Place your pile somewhere that you can easily give it the attention that it needs. A proper pile isn’t smelly, gross, or full of bugs. Simply place it in a place that makes the most sense to you!