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 a tree.
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 ammonium sulphate
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