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Build Your Own Compost Pile

Interested In Growing Your Own Food? Start With Growing Your Own Soil

Luan Akin’s Swedish grandmother cultivated her garden by reusing what the world had to offer — and that started with building a healthy compost pile with food scraps and yard waste, she says.

Luan, who is a garden ambassador with Tagawa Gardens garden center in Parker, carries on her grandmother's love of gardening today and is a big believer in the benefits of composting. She says she just wishes she'd paid more attention to her grandmother. “I would love to go back and ask more questions.” 

The advantage of growing your own vegetable garden is to know where your food comes from and being a part of a self-sustaining way of life. And composting, Luan says, is a logical, healthy part of that process. "Why wouldn’t you go that one step further and grow it in the best soil you can?," Luan says. "And know where that compost came from because it’s yours. You made it."


1. The general rule is two-thirds of the browns (dried leaves and other yard waste) and one-third of the greens (food scraps) by volume. When building your compost pile, you can enclose with something as simple as chicken wire. The compost pile should be at least three feet by three feet and ideally covered with a loose tarp to help keep your compost moist.

2. When choosing where to place your compost, it should be a flat area in your backyard. Ideally, placed in partial sun and partial shade.

3. Never compost with oil, cheese or meat. It can attract varmints, and oil impedes a healthy amount of air exchange. Give your compost a varying diet.

4. For enriched growth in your garden, no more than 20 percent of the soil should be compost. It’s an amendment, not a growing medium. 

5. Your compost pile should smell like a freshly wet forest floor, if it smells like sulfur you’ve done something wrong.