How to Compost

Composting for home gardens. A Garden resource at Infographic by @rvank.

Composting can often sound daunting but it is actually incredibly easy to do. Not only that, but you are saving massive amounts of organic materials that would otherwise end up in a dump somewhere.


What Goes into a Compost Pit?

Here is my cheat sheet for building a great compost pile. I do two every season. One is like the infographic above and is the pile I will use for tilling into my gardens each season, and another is used strictly plant trimmings, grass clippings, and leaves which on their own can make a fine compost but lack a lot of the nutrients you find by adding fruit and vegetable clippings, wood ash, eggshells, and even coffee grounds. I tend to let my leaves and grass clippings pile sit for a year or more to give this materials a head start and then I add them to my main compost pit as needed. By the end of the season, I am usually left with a couple cubic yards of compost, more than enough to add the vital nutrients to my garden beds that have been sucked out from the previous years plants.


What goes into a compost pit? Well the infographic says it all. And while there is a big nitrogen and carbon balance that can sit at the root of many people’s compost pits, my rule is simple: just add what you have. Everything as it decomposes is going to add so many vital elements to the soil. And honestly, it’s hard to go wrong.


Tricks for Composting

There are a few things you need to know about composting. First, for a material to breakdown, it requires natural organisms to do that work – bugs, works, fungi, bacteria etc. For these guys to thrive they need air, water, and then something to breakdown. You’ve got the material (the compost) so it’s up to you to turn the compost regularly (I do it every couple weeks, often adding a little soil in as well) so that a lot of air is mixed into it. And lastly is water. If you are in a dry area, I suggest spraying down the compost pit every week or so. We get enough rain here, plus my sprinklers tend to hit the pile that it isn’t necessary for me.


Materials to Avoid

So, I’ve showed you what to add, but is there anything you should avoid. Yes. Definitely avoid meat products. While fish bones are great to add (chop and grind them up first) meat bones aren’t always the best. Stick to organic plant matter. I also suggest avoiding pine needles as they are very high in acidity which not many plants like. They also take a long time to breakdown. And while al to of people will compost paper and newspaper, I prefer not to only because of the inks that are on these papers. Really, almost anything goes though. Oh, but it should go without saying that you should most definitely not add any plastics, metals, or other non organic materials.


Get a Print

As always, feel free to bookmark, print, or pin this image for your reference. But if you’d like, you can have a high quality, large poster shipped straight to your door! And don’t forget to check out my blueprints on preparing garden soil for raise beds and potted plants.

And get the matching garden bed and potted soil posters as well!

Have you own composting secrets and tips and tricks? Share them with us in the comments below!

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AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Food nerd. Cookbook author. Founder of Chasing Delicious. Pastry cook at Fluff Bake Bar. Lover of hot dogs. Russell van Kraayenburg founded Chasing Delicious in 2010 and has been chasing delicious recipes ever since. Russell is author of the cookbooks Haute Dogs and Making Dough.


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  • Elle McIntosh

    Thank you for a very informative post! I’ve bought a compost tumbler and haven’t used it yet. (By the way, as an English teacher I can’t help but point out a typo in your poster = “avoid sticks & branc[h]es” near the bottom).

    • Russell van Kraayenburg

      Thank you so much for catching that, Elle. It looks like I accidentally uploaded an earlier draft of the poster! Happy composting!

  • Brooke Evans

    Thanks. That’s helpful information. I have a compost heap going at the moment. This is my first attempt at making compost. I have it covered with a sheet of plastic but may stop using it. I’ll leave it uncovered as per the diagram above.

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