It’s a great way to get rid of kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and weeds. You don’t need a fancy compost bin or tumbler. If you want to invest in one, that’s great. My compost bin is built from wooden pallets. I stood them up to make a 3 sided box and screwed them together. I left the front open for easy access to the pile. Then I added a second bin to the side later. It’s pretty easy to find. I got mine for free from a local store.

The Standard Method recommends is 3x3x3 feet. You want a 30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Start the pile with a layer of mature. dead material, like leaves. It helps to have the leaves chopped into small pieces, they will compost faster than if they were left whole. You can accomplish this by mowing over the leaves before raking or if you have a bagging mower just use that and dump the bag of leaves into the pile.

Next add a 4-6 inch layer of fresh green material, grass clippings or kitchen waste. Use a pitch fork or shovel to mix the layers together. Continue to add layers of fresh and mature materials until the pile reaches the desired size or your bin is full. Mix each layer in as it is added. Grab a handful of the materials and squeeze. If a few drops of water come out it is wet enough. If not you will need to add some water to reach the proper moisture content of 60%.

A few days after construction your pile should have an internal temperature of 110 degrees. Turn the pile after one week. The internal temperature should reach about 140 degrees. Turn the pile again after one week. Then a third time one week later. By this point your pile should have reduced in size by about 50%. The internal temperature will have dropped to about 100 degrees.

After four weeks the compost should look uniform, a dark brown color and have an earthy smell. The Carbon to Nitrogen ratio will have dropped as the microbes use the carbon and release it as carbon dioxide. The compost can be used as a soil amendment in the garden. If you want to use it as a potting medium let it age for another week or two.

This sounds relatively easy in theory. Since I just learned this in my Master Gardener class it has opened my eyes as to why my pile is not composting.

Here are my mistakes:

1. Particle size too large-I did not chop the leaves first. I also did not crush the egg shells first, bad idea they don’t want to compost at all!

2. Wrong C:N ratio. My pile is composed mostly of leaves. I need to add more nitrogen.

3. Too dry. Must add more water.

4. Infrequent turning. Turn it more often!

5. Wrong screws. I didn’t use outdoor screws. They rusted and my bin is falling apart.


That patch of green on the left side is a clump of squash plants. There was a squash in the pile, when I turned it the squash burst open and the seeds came out. I was surprised that they germinated. So I just left them there since I’ve run out of room in the garden.

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