Composting Made Easy

Compost garden with vegetables and dirt on a yellow background

Creating your own compost pile is so quick and easy that you could likely start one today with materials found around your home and neighborhood. Even better, it only takes five minutes per day to maintain! 

Download our simple guide to composting and follow these steps to get started:

1. Create the Bin

Determine the location where you’ll keep your compost pile. Ideally, it will be very close to your garden (or where you are planning to plant a garden) to avoid unnecessary work in hauling finished compost across the yard.

Next, you’ll need a bin, which can be either open or closed, to house the compost. There are two options for this step:

  1. Buy a commercial bin. You can find these at home improvement stores, gardening specialty shops or online with a simple search.
  2. Make your own bin. Enclose a circular area that’s three or four feet in diameter with 3- to 4-foot high plastic garden fencing, welded wire or chicken wire.

2. Add Ingredients

The great thing about composting is that it’s almost impossible to fail. Nature takes care of imbalances that can occur based on materials you use. 

Simply follow these steps and you can be assured that your compost will, well, compost!

  1. Place a 4” layer of plants with stems, broken-up sticks and other coarse materials in the bottom of the bin. You may also use tree bark, dead plant clippings and natural wood chips.
  2. Add kitchen waste, fallen leaves, dead plants and grass clippings to the pile as they become available. This includes any fruit and vegetable peels, sawdust, horse or cattle manure and cardboard torn into hand-sized pieces. Do not include meat scraps, omnivorous animal (dogs, cats, etc.) feces, herbicide-treated grass clippings or any treated wood.
  3. Spray water on the pile to achieve moistness without making it soggy. Repeat every few days to keep it moist.

Do not overwater your pile. That’s one of the most common mistakes new composters make. Think of it like spraying your hair with just enough to style it, but not so much that it looks like you just stepped out of the shower. Bad odors are usually a sign that it’s too wet. If it does become soggy, simply turn the pile more often and allow it to dry out for a few days.

3. Turn the Pile

The main purpose of turning the pile is to ensure that the different materials you’re adding interact with each other, which helps them to break down faster. Aerating the pile is another reason to turn it, although this does happen naturally to an extent as the pile transforms.

If you have a smaller pile, simply turn the materials with a pitchfork. If your pile is a bit larger, you can lift up the bin (if you made a fence) and set it next to the pile. Then, scoop the contents back into the bin with your pitchfork.

It’s good to do this daily, although you may find that turning the pile every two to three days is perfectly adequate. You can also moisten the pile after you turn it, as needed.

4. Use the Compost

You know your compost is ready when you can no longer recognize the original ingredients; it looks more like soil than scraps. It will likely turn into a dark, rich substance that has a good consistency to it. The process, at a minimum, will take about three to four weeks, but it could take up to three months.

Don’t worry if your compost isn’t ready this planting season – you can always store it in a large container, such as a 55-liter garbage can, and save it for next planting season.

If your compost looks like it’s almost ready, go ahead and use it in your garden. Fill holes with it and plant your seeds; it will finish the process while it’s in the ground. As we mentioned earlier, it’s fairly difficult to fail – just give it some more time if you’re in doubt.

Enjoy your composting – and enjoy the wildly beautiful plants and delicious produce that will result from your work!