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How to Start a Compost Pile at Home

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How to Start a Compost Pile at Home

Healthy compost is made up of organic materials (kitchen and yard scraps) that are left to decompose. Afterward, you can use the end-product to fertilize the soil.

There are many benefits of composting. For the most part, it enriches the soil and retains soil moisture, which leads to higher yields of crops. Moreover, it’s an organic alternative to fertilizers.

Read on to learn how to make compost.

Decide Why You Want One

This step may seem like common sense, but there are people out there who are enthralled with the idea of being “off the grid” or “self-sufficient”, yet they live in a crowded downtown area.

They also go out to eat for every meal and live in a high-rise apartment complex with absolutely no room for such an endeavor.

Ensure that you have enough space in which to house your organic compost. If you have a yard, that’s good. Moreover, if you have room enough for an actual garden, where you will use this compost, even better.

Obtain a Container

Acquire a bin or a tumbler in which to place your scraps that will be turned into compost.

You can make your own or buy one that is pre-assembled. You can also have an open pile, for example, out in the back corner of your yard.

This is fine if you have a big yard, but beware it may attract nuisance wildlife if you continually place food waste in it.

Things to Put in Your Compost Bin

Kitchen and yard wastes are the main green and brown organic materials to put in your compost pile.

  • Wood shavings
  • Paper bags (shredded)
  • Grass clippings
  • Dried leaves
  • Human hair
  • Eggshells
  • Pine needles and cones
  • Corn cobs
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Newspaper (shredded )
  • Cardboard
  • Organic animal manure
  • Twigs
  • Sawdust

Can you compost bread? Absolutely. Once it is moist, bread breaks down easily and will add nitrogen to your compost. However, it may attract more insects than usual.

What NOT to Put in Compost

There are certain waste materials or scraps that are not suitable for your compost. These include:

  • Dairy products. These will curdle or and slow down the whole process. They can also stink and attract unwanted insects.
  • Feces — both humans and pets are a big no-no. They can also spread diseases to your vegetables.
  • Sawdust from pressure-treated woods. Pressure-treated wood is great for the deck but not good for the food you are going to eat. You do not want to be adding toxins to your pile.

The Composting Process

Though there are different composting methods, a simple homemade heap is set up in layers, just like your favorite cake.

  • The bottom should comprise about four inches of brush, twigs, or straw.
  • Next comes a four-inch layer of brown material, but remember, no poop. Brown materials include newspaper, dry leaves, straw or hay, wood chips, sawdust, etc.
  • Atop that, you will want four inches of the good green stuff. These include vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and weeds without seeds.
  • Add water to keep it moist and speed up decomposition. However, do not make your compost too wet. It should not be too dry either.
  • Place the bin or composter in a location where it is warm — receiving at least partial sun. The more heat it receives, the faster the contents will break down.

The finished product should look and smell like rich, dark soil.

Talk With Your Neighbors

Talking with your neighbors about your compost heap has two benefits. First of all, you can get a sense of whether they are upset.

Composters, when left on their own, can start to smell over time. Depending on which way the wind blows, your neighbor might be the one stuck smelling it all the time.

Or, maybe they have a dog who likes to wander and eat all sorts of things. If you are routinely throwing table scraps into the yard, the neighbor dog might be eating them as fast as they hit the ground.

The other reason to talk to your neighbor is to see if they may want to contribute their yard trimmings and kitchen scraps to your pile.


After all the time and effort you have invested in creating your compost, and then spreading it in your garden, be sure you enjoy the benefits of it. Not only will you be enjoying rich, dark, homemade plant food, but you will be saving money as well.


Creating a DIY compost bin is a smart way to reuse kitchen scraps and yard wastes. Backyard composting will help your vegetable garden, flowers, lawn, or houseplants greatly, all while saving you a trip down to the local plant store to buy bags of someone else’s compost.

Sasha Brown

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

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