Compost, or gardener’s “gold,” is not just great for your plants, it’s great for the environment. But what exactly is it? Saying it simply, composting is using processes to decompose organic matter to create a high nutrient fertilizer. It helps to recycle kitchen waste and yard clippings while resulting in improved soil. And while mom groups chatter about it frequently, for anyone who has considered it, the venture suddenly appears extremely complicated. So let’s go through it as a To-Do checklist as a means of simplifying the process. 

Choose its structure:

 The three most common structures for composting are building your own bin, buying a bin, or making a pile.

      1. Building a bin: For the more ambitious composter, building a bin can be extremely cost effective. Technically almost anything can be made into a compost bin as long as it has the right layers, but we’ll get into that later. Every composter has their favorite materials, but wooden boxes, chicken wire, wood pallets, and cinder blocks are the most common.
      2. Buy a bin: For the space restricted composter, buying a specialized bin may be the right choice. It also provides the best protection and design for your composting needs.
      3. Make a pile: For the composter with ample space, making a pile can be the most straightforward manner of composting. It’s not quite as controlled, but if the remainder of the process is followed, it works just as well. 
  • Gather the layers:  Composting requires precision with the ingredients that you are using. A precise balance is required, so get together these items before putting them in order. Imagine making a sandwich. Each layer gets its appropriate portion. 
      1. Freshly tilled soil: If you are using a box, then use the turned soil from your landscape, and approximate 1/10th the height of the box.
      2. Straw or clippings: You will need dry materials like this for many layers of the compost, so if you cannot get them from your own land, a local feed store will likely have them.
      3. Green (carbon rich) materials:  Coffee grounds, leaves, newspapers, brown paper bags, corn cobs, and many other items are part of this category. Fortunately, there are many lists online of what can be considered carbon rich compost materials, and printing a few out for your kitchen may help get you used to what can be included. When gathering your first haul though, keep in mind that green materials should be only ⅓ of the compost. 
      4. Brown (nitrogen rich) materials: The other ⅔ of the compost is made up of nitrogen rich materials, like grass and weeds, flowers, fruits and vegetables, and table scraps. Again, printing out lists will help to make sure your proportions are accurate. 
      5. Buy some manure:  I know. Gross. But this is mostly to get started with. Once a compost is healthy, the nitrogen rich materials will work on their own.
      6. Water source:   Make sure that a hose is close and accessible to the bin or pile.
      7. Get a covering:  Whether it be another wood pallet or plastic tarp, the compost needs to keep heat in and remain moist to encourage microbe growth. 
      8. Don’t forget a pitchfork: Or long handled trowel or something similar. You’re going to be turning it a lot. 
    1.  Put it all together: Put on your gloves and get ready. Setting up your compost correctly from the beginning is the most important part. 
      1. Put down your layer of fresh dirt first.
      2. Then place the layer of straw and clippings
      3. The green material goes in a thick layer.
      4. The brown material is next in a layer double that of the green material.
      5. A thin layer of manure is on top.
      6. And then repeat the green, brown, and manure layers again.
      7. Top off with some water and cover.
  • Things to remember:
    1. It’s okay if you don’t have multiple layers of the green and brown materials ready to go. Use what you have in the ⅓ and ⅔ proportions and keep saving up until the next round.
    2. Adding manure and straw on occasion (most composters recommend every few weeks) and mixing them in will do wonders for your compost pile. 
    3. A compost pile must be moist, oxygenated, and hot as it’s decomposing. Don’t get worried if you feel heat coming off of it. That’s a good thing.
    4. Your compost is ready for your garden when there’s no more heat, it breaks apart easily in your hands, smells freshly of earth, and is a deep black or dark brown color. 


Composting can seem complicated and, quite frankly, the actual chemical process that is occurring IS complicated. But the practicalities of creating a compost doesn’t require expertise in horticulture. Or even a knowledge of what horticulture means. The basics are easy to accomplish with the right instructions. If you have any other landscaping or gardening needs or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact experts like the professionals at Anthony’s Lawn Care and Landscaping at 812.345.5694 for quotes.