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Definition: Composting is a process that allows naturally occurring microbes to convert yard waste, such as leaves and grass clippings, to a useful organic soil amendment or mulch.

Table scraps
Table scraps

This blog will be broken into serval parts to cover the basics of composting. Structures, location, materials, preparing and maintaining.

There are a few key points to remember while composting:

  • The smaller the plant pieces, the more rapidly they will break down.

  • Do not compost diseased or insect infected plants & weeds.

  • Do not compost pet feces, meat, bones, grease, whole eggs and dairy products.

  • There is little need to compost lawn clippings, these tend to pack down and restrict airflow to your pile. (If you do compost lawn clippings, make sure to mix it with other yard waste first)

  • Air circulation in your pile is important and helps break your compost down properly.


When it comes to composting, you can either have an enclosed or an unenclosed pile. An enclosed pile will stay contained to its space, whereas an unenclosed pile will slowly start to spread out and may become unpleasant to look at over time. This ultimately comes down to what you prefer.

As for actual structures, there are many kinds of manufactured structures you can purchase at hardware stores, or online. If you decide to make one on your own, there are a few different materials you can use (cement blocks, brick, wood, woven wire fencing, or metal posts).

Your goal is to hold your compost in a cylindrical or cubical space. Said space should be 3-5 feet in either direction. Any smaller then that, your pile will not create enough heat. On the same note, anything larger will not allow for enough penetration of air or water.


The location of your compost pile is very important. You want to make sure it does not interfere with yard activities or neighbors. Your compost pile will work the best where it can receive partial sun light (this helps heat up the pile) and is away from drying winds.


Grass and leaves are some of the most common composting materials. Here are some more:

  • Coffee grounds

  • Eggshells

  • Faded flowers

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps

  • Leftover plants at the end of the gardening season

  • Shredded newspaper (black & white)

  • Small amounts of wood ash and sawdust

  • Straw

  • Weeds


Compost piles are built in layers. Start with 8-10 inches of leaves/grass/plant trimmings. Once your base is laid down water it until it is moist, not soggy. Next you want to add a nitrogen source such as ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, or an inexpensive high nitrogen lawn fertilizer without herbicide. We carry a Compost Starter from Espoma that you could use instead. It's a very simple product that you add in between every layer. Its billions of microbes helps speed up the decomposition process.

Espoma Compost Starter
Espoma Compost Starter

After a layer of nitrogen, it's time to add of your scraps and plant material. Repeat the layers until the pile reaches 5ft tall, watering each time you add a new layer.


  • An active compost piles heats up to 130-150 degrees

  • Turn your pile 1-2 times a month

  • Continue to water your pile, keep it moist not soggy

  • You can add a little of fresh material when you turn the pile

  • A well managed piled will be ready in two to four months. If your pile is unmanaged, it will take closer to a year

  • When your pile is done, it will be half of its original height and have a pleasant earthy smell

What do I do with my compost?

Compost makes a great addition to your pots, planters, raised garden beds, or your garden! Just add some in with your soil and watch your plants thrive.

Happy planting:)


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