Compost Pile the “Layer Cake” Method

Preparing good compost is the cornerstone of any good organic or biodynamic garden. Here is one method for smaller home gardens. The “layer cake” or “lasagna” method ensures good composting and balanced decomposition. If you have been gathering kitchen waste and/or grass clippings to compost, this is the time to create a lovely, well-balanced pile to fertilize your garden next fall.

You will need to gather a pile of dry, dead plant matter such as stalks, leaves, etc. and one of green garden matter, kitchen waste, and grass trimmings. You can make any size pile, but too small of a pile can have trouble warming up well, so make as large a pile as you are able to with your materials. If you have a lot of dry leaves, it’s good to run over them a few times with a lawn mower, since they will break down more easily if they are in smaller pieces. Make sure that any garden waste you put into your compost pile is not from diseased plants, and minimize weed seeds in your compost by having a separate weed pile or if you are just making a small pile, it may be possible to remove the seed-heads from your weeds and used the stalks and leaves in your “green” pile if they are still green or in your “brown” pile if they have dried down. Once you have your two piles, one of kitchen waste, grass clippings, and “green” or wet organic matter such as plants cleared from the garden for the winter, one of dry or “brown” organic matter (leaves, stalks, etc.) and a shovel or two of garden soil, you can begin. First lay down a rectangle of “brown” matter, ideally about 4ft by 8 ft (or longer if you have lots of material) and about 6 inches deep, with a rim around the edge of about 8 inches deep to form a shallow trough or container. Into this, spread a layer of the “green” matter, about 2-4 inches deep. Sprinkle this with a few handfuls of soil to help encourage microbial life. Add another layer of “brown” matter, again pulling more towards the edged to make a trough, then “green”, soil, and repeat until your pile is about 4 feet tall. End with a “brown” layer to cover the pile.

If you are making a biodynamic compost pile and have preparations on hand, make small balls of soil and each of the dry preps. Poke 5 holes in your pile, (the handle of a garden fork or spade works well for this) and put the soil and preparation balls in, one preparation ball per hole, and tamp them down to ensure The autumn is a wonderful time to make compost piles, and to spread good contact with the compost pile. Each biodynamic gardener finds for her or himself the spacing and order which they feel brings the best influences into the compost, but a simple and basic form is to make a pattern like the 5 on a dice, with Nettles in the middle, and oak bark and chamomile opposite each other and yarrow and dandelions opposite each other. Mix your valerian juice in warm water for twenty minutes creating good vortices first in one direction then the other, and spray or flick the liquid over the pile like a warm blanket for the long winter sleep. Biodynamic preps can be ordered from the Josephine Porter Institute, or check your area for a local BD group that might make them and have some available.)