Home Composting Basics

by April Reinhardt
(last updated June 24, 2016)

You can create a compost bin or pile in your backyard to help the materials decompose more quickly, and then use the compost to fertilize your garden, instead of sending them to the nearest landfill on garbage pickup day. Your compost heap will reach the proper temperature in about two weeks, and the compost will be ready to use when it is dark brown and crumbles easily. Turn your garden soil, apply your compost in a 3-inch layer, and work into the soil well with a shovel or pitchfork.

What can you put into a compost heap or bin? Here are some of the things you might want to include:

  • Vegetable peelings, fruit scraps, coffee grounds, paper coffee filters, paper tea bags, egg shells
  • Grass clippings, hedge trimmings, tree limbs, wood chips, leaves
  • Dead flowers, old plants such as corn husks and fodder shocks, leftover plant bedding
  • Pond algae, seaweed, dead plants, garden pruning's, straw, hay,
  • Cardboard packaging such as cereal boxes, egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • Newspaper, corrugated cardboard, used paper, ashes
  • Natural fibers from clothing such as cotton or wool, string, thread, dryer lint

Although you'll want to include all-natural materials in your compost heap or bin, there are a few all natural materials that you shouldn't use. Don't use any of the following materials in your garden compost: fish scraps, chicken, cheese, bones, meat, fat, milk, oil, grease, pet manure, human feces, weeds, or vegetation that has been sprayed with chemicals. Now that you know what to add to a compost heap or bin, follow these steps to make your garden compost:

  • Shred your compost material. Make sure that anything you add to your heap or bin is shredded so that it will decompose faster. Begin with a one- or two-foot pile of vegetation such as leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, kitchen scraps, etc.
  • Spread it around. Spread a thin layer of fertilizer over the heap, one cup of ground limestone, and then several shovelfuls of dirt.
  • Watering. Water the compost heap or add to the bin. Keep your compost moist and continue to add material as it becomes available.
  • Keep adding to the pile. When the layers thicken, add more fertilizer, lime, and dirt, and keep the compost moist by adding water.
  • Periodically turn. Turn the compost with a shovel or pitchfork once every two weeks to ensure that the entire heap heats up, and not just the center of the pile. The heat within the pile will kill any harmful bacteria, disease, or weed seeds and will hasten the decay process.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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