Project Guide

How to Compost

Difficulty: BeginnerTime: Over 1 Day Print

Learn how to compost and get tips on how to start using scraps from your table and garden to create nutrient-rich soil. Making compost with organic matter such as grass clippings and kitchen leftovers is an environmentally friendly way to reuse scraps as you do your part to reduce waste in landfills.

The best part comes when your compost bin begins producing black gold for your plants. Your garden will love the nutrients from the compost when you add it to the soil.


  • Composters

1. Types of Composting

Once you know you want to compost, there are several types of composting for you to try. The four most common types include on-site composting, windrow composting, vermicomposting and in-vessel composting. On-site composting is most popular with homeowners, as it doesn’t require much experience or a large pile and relies primarily on kitchen scraps. In windrow composting, you sort materials into long, narrow piles called wind-rows often set up outside. Vermicomposting uses worms to decompose organic matter, and in-vessel composting requires machines and electrical equipment and is the most labor-intensive composting method.

2. Start with the Right Composter

For a low-maintenance solution, try a compost bin that tumbles. To create your own compost, add things like banana, apple, orange, and other fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells and other kitchen scraps, and non-diseased garden debris such as grass clippings to your composter. Then, turn the bin every few days. A compost bin rain barrel lets you collect and reuse rainwater in your garden while composting organic matter.

If you’re in a smaller space, try the compost sack. It’s quick, easy and portable.

3. Let Earthworms Work Their Magic

Let earthworms and their castings do the work for you. When you add earthworms to your compost pile, it helps speed up the process of breaking down the organic matter in your compost bin.

4. Try Compost Starter

person sliding chopped vegetables off a cutting board into a compost pile

When you use compost starter, you’ll improve nutrient absorption and help break down simple organic materials like fruit and vegetable scraps and grass clippings faster in your compost bin.


5. Use Layers

Layer garden and kitchen waste in your compost bin. Keep a balance of about 75 percent garden waste, including leaves and non-diseased plants, to 25 percent kitchen scraps. For faster compost breakdown, use a compost turner or turn the mixture with a garden fork a few times a week.

6. Keep a Pail

Make things easy by keeping an indoor compost pail in the kitchen. When you’re prepping your meals, you can quickly scoop potato and onion skins, carrot peels, strawberry caps, egg shells, coffee grounds and more right into the pail. Every few days, just empty it out into the compost bin.

7. What Not to Compost

While composting is a great way to help the environment and create nutrient-rich gardening soil, it is vital to understand what not to compost. Some materials you should not compost include dog and cat waste, bread products, cooking oils, dairy and meat products, rice, tea and coffee bags, sawdust from treated wood, glossy or coated paper, and citrus peels and onions. If you have any doubts about putting something in your compost bin, do some research first. It is always better to be safe than sorry.