Composting at Home

Home composting is a simple way to boost your soil, increase your produce and help keep wasteout of the landfill.

How to start a compost pile:

A pile of leaves can be raked into a corner and allowed to sit for a year.
Another easy way is to get a barrel for yard waste and food scraps.
This barrel can be easily turned to help stir the compost and make the process quicker.
There are many other ways to begin a compost pile.

All compost piles need three elements to complete the composting process: Heat, Water and Air.


Heat causes the elements in the compost pile to break down faster. The inside of a pile will be much hotter than the extremities. This is why the pile should be turned regularly if possible.

Sunshine is usually just fine to heat up a compost pile. A barrel or other container will keep it much hotter.


Water is important to the compost pile. The pile should not be soaking wet, but should be moist. Most places say it should have the consistency of a "wet sponge."


Air is the biggest thing. The materials that go into a compost pile are made up of two things: Carbon and Nitrogen. Items such as wood, dry leaves, hay, wood ash, pine needles and paper are carbon based. Items such as table scraps, coffee grounds, grass clippings, manure and tea leaves are nitrogen based. One easy way to remember these is that carbon is usually brown and nitrogen is usually green. Below is a table of nitrogen and carbon based items.

A good mix for the compost pile is about three times as much carbon (brown) as nitrogen (green). However, given enough time, a pile of leaves (carbon) will decompose with the help of any nitrogen products (it will get nitrogen from the air).

Compost Material Table

Material Carbon/Nitrogen Info
table scraps Nitrogen add with dry carbon items
fruit & vegetable scraps Nitrogen add with dry carbon items
eggshells neutral best when crushed
leaves Carbon leaves break down faster when shredded
grass clippings Nitrogen add in thin layers so they don't mat into clumps
garden plants - use disease-free plants only
lawn & garden weeds Nitrogen only use weeds which have not gone to seed
shrub prunings Carbon woody prunings are slow to break down
straw or hay Carbon straw is best; hay (with seeds) is less ideal
green comfrey leaves Nitrogen excellent compost 'activator'
pine needles Carbon acidic; use in moderate amounts
flowers, cuttings Nitrogen chop up any long woody stems
seaweed and kelp Nitrogen rinse first;good source for trace elements
wood ash Carbon only use ash from clean materials; sprinkle lightly
chicken manure Nitrogen excellent compost 'activator'
coffee grounds Nitrogen filters may also be included
tea leaves Nitrogen loose or in bags
newspaper Carbon avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
shredded paper Carbon avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
cardboard Carbon shred material to avoid matting
corn cobs, stalks Carbon slow to decompose; best if chopped up
dryer lint Carbon best if from natural fibers
sawdust pellets Carbon high carbon levels; add in layers to avoid clumping
wood chips / pellets Carbon high carbon levels; use sparingly