Composting Made Simple

There are many reasons to start composting.  Some like to reduce the amount of garbage they produce, others like the idea of returning organic material back to nature, or if you’re like me, you just can’t stand the smelly garbage!

While composting is relatively easy, there are a few rules to follow. When I first started composting, I thought you just threw things in a pile and it would do it’s thing. I was wrong and it turned into a smelly, rotten, yucky mess. It is easy, but not THAT easy.  If done correctly, the compost pile should not be offensive or gross.  The key is the ratio of Green to Brown.  Green items are items high in nitrogen, such as vegetables, food scraps, lawn clippings.  Brown items are those high in carbon, such as branches, stems, dried leaves, coffee filters, shredded paper, etc.

The key ratio = 1/3 green : 2/3 brown, along with some occasional turning, you will be on your way!

Here are a few steps to lead you on your way to composting.

  1. Start your compost pile on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.
  2. Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
  3. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.
  4. Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.
  5. Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, etc. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.
  6. Turn. Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This aerates the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. You can skip this step if you have a ready supply of coarse material, like straw.

Once your compost pile is established, add new materials by mixing them in, rather than by adding them in layers. Mixing, or turning, the compost pile is key to aerating the composting materials and speeding the process to completion.

It is important to note that no meat or carnivore animal manure should be added to the compost pile.

Information derived from