At last! Put the natural process of decay to work for you.
Get the best soil enhancer nature has to offer ... and help reduce landfill
waste in the process.
1 Pick a Composting Bin
You can roll your own or buy a prefabricated unit. Just
about anything that holds the compost pile together and provides plenty
of air circulation will work. In fact, you can compost without a bin or
pot, but a free-standing pile takes more space.
Be sure that you choose a design - and a location -
that will allow you to easily turn over the compost.
To conserve moisture, place your bin in a fairly shady
spot. To prevent root growth into the bin, don't place it directly under
One simple bin can be made by driving stakes or pipes in the ground
and wrapping wire mesh around it.
Wooden skids can be wired together to form a three- or four-sided box.
Commercial bins are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices.
Most are made of plastic and have lids.
2 Add the Raw Materials
Line the bottom of the bin with a layer of dry brown
materials (see list at right). Sprinkle a little water on it. Next add a
layer of greens. Continue alternating layers of browns and greens until
the heap is about 2 - 3 feet high.
Try to keep a ratio of about one-third greens to two-thirds
browns: the best for "cooking" your pile. Make each layer no more
than about 3 inches thick.
Wet the pile until it is about as damp as a wrung-out
sponge. If you squeeze a handful and get more than a few drops of water,
it's too wet - add more dry leaves and brown material. Too dry slows the
composting process. Too wet causes the pile to smell.
When things are just right, microorganisms will heat
the center of the pile to more than 140 degrees.
Use two types of ingredients:
- (1/3 of volume)
- Fresh grass clippings
- Green leaves
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds, tea bags
- Egg shells
- (2/3 of volume)
- Woody materials
- Yard trimmings
- Dried leaves
- Ground-up branches
- Bark straw, hay
- Shredded paper
Don't use these!
Meat, fish, poultry, bones
Dairy products, oil grease & lard
Cooked or dressed fruit & veggies
Fresh weeds with mature seeds
Dog and cat manure
Ashes or charcoal
3 Turn, Turn, Turn
Compost needs air to breathe. Add air by fluffing up
your pile once or twice a week with a pitchfork, shovel or a stick. More
frequent turning will increase the speed of the composting process. Frequent
turning also eliminates odors.
4 Harvest Time
The "cooking time" for compost depends on
having the right amount of air, moisture and ingredients. The compost will
be ready in one to 10 months.
Finished compost is dark brown and crumbly and most
of the big pieces have decomposed. Fresh compost is clean smelling.
Compost Troubleshooting Chart
Symptom Problem Solution
Compost has a bad odor Not enough air; Turn pile; add course
pile too wet dry materials
Compost is warm and damp Compost pile is Add more brown
in middle only too small materials and mix in
Center of the pile is dry Not enough water Add more material to
pile; mix and add water
Pile is damp & sweet Lack of nitrogen Mix in a nitrogen source:
smelling but still fresh grass clippings,
won't heat up manure, blood-meal or
Flies buzz around the Wrong ingredients Avoid materials listed
iple and animals forage above; cover fruit and
through it at night vegetable scraps with
dried woody material