To Compost or Not to Compost…. That IS the question! 

Composting and soil management are important practices for maintaining a healthy and sustainable garden! What is composting you might ask… Well, composting is the process of breaking down organic matter to create nutrient-rich soil and that is exactly what you need to make sure that the soil in your garden is healthy! Building and maintaining a compost pile may seem like a daunting task, but it is just as easy as throwing your banana peels into a bin for safekeeping! The very first step in creating your compost bin is choosing a location! Choose a location for your compost pile that is convenient and easily accessible. The location should be in a shaded area and well-drained. And as realtors always say… location, location, location! Next comes the structure… your compost bin! Over the years we have had compost bins that range from a large wire and wood structure to homemade tumble barrels! 


Here are five different types of composting bins that are easy to implement!

Type 1: Stationary Plastic Bin or Box: You can use a plastic bin for regular composting. You want to ensure that your bin or box has ventilation holes at the base or on the sides. You also can include a door- so you can mix your compost easily! (more about mixing later!) 

Type 2: A Tumbling or Rotating Bin: If you are looking to decompose your compost quickly this may be the bin for you! A tumbling or rotating bin is mixed by doing exactly what it sounds like…. tumbling and rotating! These bins often include handles so you do not need to manually mix the compost… just move the bin! However… Once you have some fantastic, healthy compost you will need to empty the entire bin, then you can refill it and repeat the process.

Type 3: Wire/Mesh Bins: This would be one of the simplest forms of compost bins! You can even make your own out of wood and chicken wire or hardware cloth. Different types of wire or mesh bins are also available at local garden centers and hardware stores! With this bin you complete the usual composting process by adding your organic materials, water and mixing!   

Type 4: Block, Brick or Stone Bins: Have you ever seen a child creating a castle out of bricks or blocks… Well, this is the exact same process! You can simply make a compost bin out of these materials. By using block, brick or stone you can create a protective wall around your compost! You will just need to ensure you leave enough spaces for air flow.  

Type 5: Wood Composter (also known as the open ‘air’ pens for compost): Since your compost bin will be outdoors, you may want to use weather-resistant wood. Cedar is a great wood for outside projects because it naturally resists rot and insects. Composite decking boards are also a good choice. Another handy tip is that you can simply make a compost bin out of old pallets, to make a well ventilated box. 


After you have chosen and built the best type of compost bin for you the next step is creating your very own compost pile! To build your compost pile you will want to start by layering green materials, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps, with brown materials, such as leaves and straw. The layers should be about 3-4 inches thick. Next you will want to add water. By adding water to the pile it will keep it moist, just make sure not to overwater it!  A good rule of thumb is to add enough water so that the pile feels as damp as a wrung-out sponge.


Once you have your compost in your bin you will need to maintain it! One of the ways you maintain your pile is by mixing it like a giant stew! Turn the pile regularly, every 2-3 weeks, with a pitchfork or compost aerator to add oxygen and ensure that the materials inside are breaking down evenly. You will want to continue to balance your compost pile with carbon-rich brown materials and nitrogen-rich green materials in your pile. A general guideline is to have a ratio of 1 part green materials to 3 parts brown materials. You will want to keep in mind that the size of the pile is also important, a pile that is too small will not generate enough heat and a pile that is too big will be difficult to turn and maintain the right balance of materials. Then it’s time to harvest! The compost is ready to use when it looks and smells like rich, dark soil. It can take anywhere from two months to two years for the materials in the pile to fully decompose, depending on the size of the pile, the materials used, and the conditions.


Now you might be asking… What can I add to my compost pile? Any organic material; such as leaves, grass clippings, food scraps, and coffee grounds. Avoid adding materials such as meat, dairy, or pet waste to your compost.  

Just for fun we will share a list of some very surprising things you can add to your compost pile! 

  • Sawdust (from a clean wood source; not plywood)
  • Aquarium water
  • Shredded paper (try to avoid glossy paper) 
  • Dead flower bouquets and houseplants 
  • Cooked plain pasta and rice 
  • Fruit and vegetable pulp from a juicer
  • Freezer-burned vegetables and fruits
  • Nutshells 
  • Old spices
  • Dried herbs
  • Stale bread, oatmeal, crackers, and tortillas 
  • Wooden popsicle sticks (Snap them in half for a quicker breakdown)
  • Paper egg cartons (Ripped into small pieces)

It’s never too late to start your own compost pile! So start saving your coffee grounds, shredded paper and banana peels and get started today!