How to Start a Compost Heap

If your new year’s resolution includes getting started composting, we’re here to help! Composting not only turns organic trash into organism-rich soil, it also saves you money (no need to purchase that soil – or sell it to your lazier neighbors) and chores (we bet you can get down to putting out the trash every other week!).

Never composted? No problem. Composting is easy to do and requires no investment (unless you want to buy a composting barrel which can run you between $30 – $200, depending on how fancy you want to get). Here’s how you get started:

Step 1: Do you want to put your compost in a pile in your yard, or do you want it to be covered and out of sight? If the latter, look into purchasing a composting barrel. Your local waste management company might sell them for cheap (also check with them on composting classes, often offered for free). We recommend the Smith and Hawken Biostack Compost Bin. Read reviews of compost bins here.

Step 2: For composting to take place, you will need four basic ingredients: nitrogen (greens), carbon (browns), water and air. Composting requires a 50/50 mix of nitrogen and carbon ingredients. “Browns” consist of dry materials such as wood chips, dried leaves, cardboard egg cartons, even newspaper (the ink is soy-based). “Greens” are fresh materials such as fresh leaves, grass cuttings, manure and food scraps (fruits, vegetables) to name a few. Never use protein (meats, eggs, cheeses).

Step 3: Place approximately equal amounts of your browns and greens into your composting bin or pile.

Step 4: Soak the pile with water to make it evenly moist (consistency of a damp sponge).
Continue to add materials to your pile and sprinkle it with water. In 3-6 months you will have wonderful, fresh-smelling soil, and the great satisfaction that comes with creating something out of garbage! For a faster turn on the soil, stir your compost pile weekly. A shovel will do fine for that purpose.

Learn more about composting online or take a local class through your city’s Recycling department (look for notices in your garbage bill).

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