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How to Make Compost

Updated on April 18, 2012

Benefits of Composting

I love composting, no really, I do! Composting is an earth-friendly and thrifty way to reduce your carbon footprint. By filling less garbage bags and eliminating additional waste from landfills, you will save money and the earth. In return, you will be rewarded with rich, fertilized soil for your garden beds.

How to Compost

Composting is a lot easier than it sounds. There are three basics steps to follow:

Step 1: Save kitchen scraps

Food waste, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, apple cores, peach pits, seeds, etc. can all be composted. You can throw in cardboard egg cartons, stale bread or cereal, and any rice or grains leftover from dinner.

The only things you really need to avoid are anything oily (cooking oil, peanut butter, etc.), as it won't decompose and also any animal waste and/or bones.

When I am cooking, I will add any fruit and vegetable waste to a recycled plastic container, such as the ones used by Earthbound farms for leafy greens and then once I am done, I bring it out to the composter.

If your bin is not conveniently located or you can't get to it right away, you may want to try using a small garbage pail or products specifically designed and sold as kitchen compost bins.

Composting Photo Guide

Step 1: Save Kitchen Scraps
Step 1: Save Kitchen Scraps | Source
Step 2: Add Scraps to Bin
Step 2: Add Scraps to Bin | Source
Step 3: Collect Rich Soil
Step 3: Collect Rich Soil | Source

Step 2: Add scraps to compost bin

It's important to keep your compost pile properly balanced to produce organic fertilizer. The scientific formula is 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, I just think of this as a good variety of food scraps, balanced with some yard waste (grass clippings, leaves, weeds, small twigs, etc) does the trick.

Aerate Frequently
Using an aerator, pitchfork, or compost tumbler, it is a good idea to mix up the ingredients regularly to aid in the decomposition process.

Add Water, if Needed
If the contents of your compost bin appear to be getting dried out, you should water it. The heat and moisture inside the bin will positively effect the composting process.

Step 3: Collect rich soil

As soon as it resembles rich black soil, you can add your compost to enrich the soil in potted plants or garden beds. Compost can also be sprinkled around the base of a plant or tilled into the soil with your hands or a garden tool.

Advantages of Using a Compost Bin

Some people may argue that a compost bin is unnecessary to compost successfully. I completely agree with many of their arguments, such as less consumption of material goods, but there are also good reason to use a compost bin. Here are a few of mine:

  • Cleaner & more aesthetically pleasing than a heap of scraps; some towns may even have restrictions on open piles of compost
  • Keeps animals and other pests at away
  • Holds in heat which helps increase the decomposition process

Photos: Compost Bins

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Compost tumbler, by far, my favoritePlastic compost binPlastic compost bin with accessible door in frontDIY Compost heap with wooden pallets
Compost tumbler, by far, my favorite
Compost tumbler, by far, my favorite | Source
Plastic compost bin
Plastic compost bin | Source
Plastic compost bin with accessible door in front
Plastic compost bin with accessible door in front | Source
DIY Compost heap with wooden pallets
DIY Compost heap with wooden pallets | Source

Types of Bins

There are many types of compost bins on the market today. You can even make your own compost bin if you would like.

DIY: Compost Heap/Wooden Pallet Bin (free)
Our first compost heap was constructed for yard waste only out of wooden pallets. It worked ok, but it looked messy and was very difficult to get out the finished compost because it was at the bottom of a large pile. Aerating the pile was also burdensome.

Plastic Compost Bins $20-40
The next two composters we tried were tall plastic bins. They each had their pros and cons. The circular shape, sold by our town, proved to be just as inconvenient as the open pile. The second one we purchased at Costco's and I thought it would be great because it had an easy access door at the bottom to reach the finished soil. Unfortunately, that one was poorly constructed and did not hold up very well. The door was also tough to open and close.

Compost Tumbler $100-300
I have been wanting to try a compost tumbler for a while, but they are so expensive. I finally spotted one on sale for $100 and I made the splurge. It is by far the best composter I have ever used.

  • Portable
    It's conveniently placed on wheels to move around the yard or park near the back door, providing easier accessibility
  • No more pitchfork or aerator
    To aerate the compost tumbler, you just unlock the pin and roll the tumbler handle. It's less strenuous and very easy to do.

Best Location for an Outdoor Compost Bin

  • Level ground
  • Partially shady
    Full sun will dry out the pile too quickly & full shade won't allow the sun to heat up the contents.
  • Convenient
    A place that you can easily access for adding to and aerating the compost.
  • Nearby Water Source
    Having a water source close by is important in case it gets dry and requires watering.

Compost TIps
Compost TIps | Source

Tip: Be Aware of Attracting Fruit Flies

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies in the Kitchen: Natural Fruit Fly Trap
If you happen to leave kitchen scraps that are intended for your compost heap in the kitchen too long, you might attracted some unwanted pests. Fruit flies love to swarm around fruit and vegetable peelings and waste, especially in the summer. To eliminate fruit flies naturally, follow the directions below:


  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dish soap


Mix together ingredients above in small shallow bowl. Leave out near source of fruit flies. The insects will be attracted to the sweet smell of the vinegar, but then will be trapped by the stickiness of the dish soap.

Tip: Did you know you can compost the following?

  • Seaweed
  • Human hair
  • Brewer's waste
  • Feathers
  • Eggshells & cardboard egg cartons
  • Felt waste
  • Coffee grounds & filters
  • Tea bags (remove staples, if any on tag)
  • Newspaper (must be printed with biodegradable ink)

Tip: Never add the these ingredients to your compost pile:

  • Animal waste or bones
  • Grease & oils
  • Diseased garden plants
  • Coal ashes
  • Cat litter
  • Cat or dog feces

Tip: Be greener & buy products with compostable packaging

Buy produce & other goods that are packaged with compostable material.
Buy produce & other goods that are packaged with compostable material. | Source

Do You Compost?

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Need Kitchen Scraps? Try some of these vegetarian recipes:

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Carrot Ginger Soup Recipe
Welcome spring by cooking up some carrot ginger soup with this super fast and healthy recipe.

Kids Cook Monday: Roasted Beets
Beets are suprisingly sweet, packed with nutrition, & super delicious. Start healthy habits early by teaching your kids how to prepare fresh vegetables.


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    • Bernard Preston profile image

      Bernard Preston 5 years ago from South Africa and the Netherlands

      Take a look at my compost piles. Regret I would find a compost bin VERY TINY! Good aeration is vital, so I've started putting old logs at the bottom, otherwise the lowermost material soon becomes inert, devoid of worms and bugs. These piles interestingly have no smell at all. Zero. And they compost orange peels from our own garden in three months, not sure about bought citrus, smeered with wax. Makes a beautiful orange scented compost!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Nice job! I learned a bunch!

      Thanks for sharing...I voted up and interesting.

    • Bernard Preston profile image

      Bernard Preston 5 years ago from South Africa and the Netherlands

      As a chiropractor, and a serious composter (I have four very large compost heaps) I have one serious request: composting is back breaking work. Literally. Preparing for composting should not be unlike preparation for a football match. Warm up, exercise, the right tools, cool down, a shower... otherwise you'll be keeping your chiro in business!

      On the other hand, composting is seriously good exercise for the body. My own back has never been better than since I started heavy gardening. But then, I do have a daughter who is a chiro too, and can take care of my aches ands pains! That's once in every couple months, max. Composting, whilst following the sensible rules of spinal care, is good for the body.

      Good for the stomach too. You should just see the giant summer butternut squash we're enjoying at the moment. Sweet as anything.

    • profile image

      alloporus 5 years ago

      Great information for one of the truly green things we can do at home because when green waste goes to landfill it decomposes to methane. This is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide that will come out of your compost if you aerate frequently.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Back when I had a big enough yard for a real garden, I was also trying to compost. I discovered that commercially grown citrus peels never seem to break down (maybe it's all the wax), so I added them to my own mental 'do not compost' list.

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 5 years ago from Far, far away

      I've been wanting to start composting for awhile. This is a really helpful hub to get started with it. Great work and very useful tips!

    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      Veggie-mom, I really like the fruit fly tip! Lots of great information to try, thanks.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      We try to compost anything that we can; we pride ourselves in only having about three bags of trash a week for our family of four. Fortunately we have animals that love our leftovers so they get first crack at the food scraps. If the horses, chickens and goats don’t eat it then it goes to the compost bin.

      Luckily our chickens have figured out that little bugs like the open compost bin so they jump up there and scratch around for any tasty treats.

      Composting, to us, is the best way to fertilize things; after our furry and feathered compost makers of course!

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Our neighborhood trash company allows composting material in our yard waste containers. I'm going to look for a compost tumbler on sale though; that seems like a great idea!

    • veggie-mom profile image

      veggie-mom 5 years ago

      Thank you, Patsybell, I'm glad you found the information useful!

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      Such an information packed hub! Love it.