Introduction: Learn How to Compost in Less Than an Hour

Learn how to compost! You don't have to have a green thumb to successfully create a healthy compost bin in your own backyard.

These instructions will help you learn the basics of the composting process. Composting is a cheap, environmentally beneficial way to enrich soil for gardening and landscaping. It helps prevent pollution by reusing organic materials instead of filling up landfills. Composting replaces the need for harmful fertilizers and pesticides, and also prevents erosion. No experience or fancy equipment is needed to start your own compost pile at home. This is not an exact science - just an easy, hassle-free way to benefit your yard. Just follow these simple steps, and within a few months your compost will be ready to add to your garden!  


The composting process is comprised of four main parts: air, water, browns, and greens.

AIR : In order for fast decomposition, the compost pile must have plenty of air. This means that it is essential for the compost materials to be regularly “fluffed” and turned.

WATER : The pile should always be moist, not wet. As one compost-guide describes, the pile should be “moist as a
wrung-out sponge.” If the pile is too dry, the decomposition will be slowed. If the pile is too wet, air is kept from
circulating in the pile and decomposition will slow.

BROWNS : Dry and dead plant material. This includes straw, brown weeds, autumn leaves, wood chips, and sawdust. These materials often need to be moistened before added to the compost.

GREENS : Fresh plant material. This includes green weeds, fruit and vegetable scraps, green leaves, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc.  

Step 1: List of Materials

Gather the following materials:
-pitchfork or rake
-chicken wire (24 in x 10 ft)
-zip ties/cable ties
-gardening soil (1-2 bags of 40 lbs)
-hose/watering can
-compost material (refer to table of "What to Compost") 
-4 wooden stakes 3’ - 4’ tall
-mallet hammer
-a friend willing to lend a hand!

What to Compost: 
-coffee grounds
-grass clippings
-shredded paper (omit non-recyclable)
-tea bags (be sure to remove any staples) 
-vegetable and fruit scraps
-wood chips
-yard scraps (old plants, flowers, and small prunings)
-egg shells (be sure they are free from yolk residue)

What Not to Compost: 
-dairy products
-food sauces
-invasive weeds
-non-organics (plastic, metal, glass, etc.) 
-pet feces
-treated wood
-any material containing preservatives/toxins

Step 2: Choose a Location

Choose a shady location in your backyard, preferably near a water source (e.g., a faucet). 

Step 3: Constructing the Bin

Fasten chicken wire into a cylinder using plastic ties.
This may require some assistance.

Step 4: Stake It!

Weave wooden stakes through chicken wire to secure bin to the ground. 

Step 5: Secure Bin

Secure bin by hammering stakes into the ground until bin is stable. 

Step 6: Add Leaves

Add approximately 6 inches of leaves into the bin.
Remember you don't have to make it exact. 

Step 7: Add Soil

Add a layer of soil, enough to cover the leaves. 

Step 8: Water Lightly

Water lightly.
Don't over water. Should be damp as a wrung-out sponge. 

Step 9: Alternate Layers

Alternate adding layers of leaves and soil, until the bin is half-way full. 

Step 10: Add Compost Materials!

Add compost materials to bin. 
Refer to list of "What to Compost" and "What Not to Compost."

Step 11: Mix It Up!

Stir to incorporate compost, leaves, and soil together with pitchfork or rake. 

Step 12: Stir, Water, Repeat

Stir and water lightly a few days a week.  

Step 13: Enjoy Your Compost!

Continue to add compost materials to your bin, and enjoy this eco-friendly alternative to keep your garden growing! 

Step 14: Troubleshooting

Why does my compost smell bad?
This could be caused by compaction.
Solution : Aerate! Stir the mixture more often to create more air movement.
Or, this could be caused by over-watering.
Solution: Add dry leaves or wood chips to soak up water and stir often to promote air flow.

How do I know when my compost pile is ready to be mixed into my garden?
If the pile has:
- shrunk significantly (up to half its original volume) OR
- the original organic materials (the leaves in Step 5) are no longer recognizable OR
- the compost pile is more crumbly than solid
the compost pile is ready. This can take a few months, be patient!

There are flies around my compost bin - how do I get rid of them?
Flies should not be attracted to your compost pile if the food scraps are stirred under the soil and leaves.
Dumping food scraps on top of the pile will attract flies.

Why are there ants in my compost pile?
Ants are a sign that the compost is too dry. Remember to lightly water the compost pile regularly.