How to Use a Composting Bin or Create a Compost Pile

Updated on September 26, 2016

What is composting?

Well...put quite simply, composting is natures way of recycling decomposing organic material back into rich healthy useful soil.

So we compost to save money, help our gardens flourish, and keep the planet nicer for everyone while creating less trash!

Composting is a simple way to put organic material into soil that is no longer full of nutrients. Compost is like steroids for plants and helps them stay healthy and ward off disease. It restores vitality life energy to soil, while avoiding the use of harsh chemicals to fertilize your yard. Even by avoiding chemical use, we cannot prevent all the chemicals that come from rainwater, using less helps everyone.

Another benefit, it's 100% FREE to make! A compost pile is your own personal fertilizer manufacturing company.

What are the benefits?

  • It conditions and replenishes soil
  • You can reuse household and kitchen items that would normally be thrown out
  • It reduces landfill waste and garbage
  • It's good for communities, the environment, and everyone on the planet
  • It introduces beneficial organisms to the soil which plants use to fight helps diseases, and stay healthier

Do you currently compost?

Composting improves your gardens, do you currently compost?

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The cycle of composting


The process and how to begin

Let's assume you have a large yard to start your composting pile. If you don't, or you find this is to much work, you can buy a composting bin, or make your own!

  1. Start your pile of compost on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and eventually be relocated to your garden(s).
  2. Lay some twigs first, 2-4 inches deep. Doing this provides drainage and helps keep air moving and flowing through the pile. When adding compost do so in layers, alternating between dry and moist/wet items. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust.
  3. Next add manure, by this I mean green manure (clover, buckwheat, wheat-grass ) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost and speeds the process of it all breaking down.
  4. Occasionally water the pile or let rain do the job
  5. Cover the pile with anything you have. A tarp, a piece of wood, scraps of carpet are okay too. Covering the pile retains heat and moisture, and prevents the pile from becoming overly wet. You want and need some moisture, but you don't want to end up with a pile of soaking stinky trash. Over watering will cause your pile to rot.
  6. And finally, turn and rotate the pile every few weeks with a shovel or pitchfork. Rotation of the pile is important to keep air moving, compost needs to stay oxygenated.

What should and shouldn't be composted

Tips and suggestions

A compost pile should have more carbon than nitrogen. To much nitrogen will make the pile stink like a huge pile of trash, and I doubt you want your yard to smell like that! Carbon will make the pile have a pleasant smell. If you are doubting what is in your pile...add more carbon material!

When you can, make all the pieces as small as possible; cut, shred, tear, smash. All items should be cut into the smallest pieces whenever possible, doing this allows nature to break items down faster and speeds up the decomposing process.

The biggest pain and nastiest job with composting is rotating the pile. If you want to cut back on this, add more material, like straw and twigs. Harvest fresh compost from the bottom while adding to the top. Rotate that stock!

Compost is meant as an additive to a flower bed, you still need manure and dirt. Compost is rich in nutrients and should be viewed as an organic fertilizer. So don't make a compost pile and think you'll just grow things in it, it doesn't work that way.

Carbon compost

Carbon rich material
Carbon rich material

Carbon material that can be composted...

The following lists carbon based materials that you should use when composting for your garden(s).

  • Leaves
  • Shrub scraps from pruning
  • Pine needles
  • Straw or hay
  • Newspaper (avoid high gloss pages, or paper with colored ink)
  • Shredded paper
  • Corn cobs (chopped or shredded into bits)
  • Shredded cardboard
  • Wood pellets
  • Dryer lint (from natural materials, like cotton)
  • Sawdust

Nitrogen compost

Nitrogen rich material
Nitrogen rich material

Nitrogen material that can be composted...

  • Table scraps (no meat or bones)
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Grass clippings
  • Clover
  • Buckwheat
  • Wheat-grass
  • Garden weeds
  • Coffee grounds (filters can be added too)
  • Flowers (cuttings and stems)
  • Tea leaves
  • Seaweed

Other items you may not have considered...

When composting these items, keep in mind...MORE carbon, less nitrogen

  • Eggshells (neutral item)
  • Paper napkins
  • Pet hair
  • Sticky post it notes
  • Popcorn, popped or unpopped
  • Old spices
  • Matches (wood or paper)
  • Old dried out herbs
  • Paper towels
  • Potato peels
  • Stale bread (if the birds don't get it first!)
  • Houseplant trimmings
  • Peat moss
  • Tissues
  • Stale chips
  • Tobacco waste
  • Old pasta (stale, when it has not been cooked)
  • Q tips (cotton and the cardboard sticks)
  • Elmer's Glue
  • Animal cage cleanings (Hamster, bird, guinea pig)
  • Peanut shells
  • Cooked rice
  • Finger and toenail clippings
  • Shrimp, crab, and lobster shells
  • Pie crusts
  • Onion skins
  • Fruit rinds (watermelon, cantelope)
  • Apple cores
  • Razor and shaving trimmings
  • Wood toothpicks
  • Brown paper bags
  • Shredded cereal boxes
  • Urine
  • Vacuum bag contents
  • Greeting card envelopes (finally a use for these!)
  • Shopping receipts
  • Pencil shavings
  • Cardboard toilet and paper towel rolls

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Rebecca


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      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

        Wow! I have never thought that I could put cooked rice in my compost pile. Thanks for the tips you have given here. Voted this up and away.

      • profile image

        Alise- Evon 4 years ago

        This was a really clear description of how to make a nice compost pile. I have read of various methods, but this is a nice, simple "recipe" if you have the yard for it- we have to take a different route as we rent- but I will file this away for later use:) The lists were especially helpful, and I can use that info at present.

        Voted up and useful.

      • Bishop55 profile image

        Rebecca 4 years ago from USA

        Hi Maren, I've never tried to compost any particular seed. But the components of a compost pile are very unlikely to allow a seed to germinate. Seeds are organic, so yeah...toss'em on in!

      • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

        Maren Elizabeth Morgan 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Do weed seeds survive in the compost pile?

      • Bishop55 profile image

        Rebecca 4 years ago from USA

        It's worth it! :) Hope this motivates you. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

      • faythef profile image

        Faythe Payne 4 years ago from USA

        Composting is something that have wanted to do for quite sometime...But have been procrastinating up