Composting doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. There are several ways you can create a DIY compost bin. Things to consider include how much space you have in your hard and how much compost you want to generate. Remember that composting takes time and a little energy to create, so be patient with the process.

Composting Tips
:
– The hotter the compost, the better.
– For faster breakdown, shred and cut all compostable items to be as small as possible.
– To aid the decomposition process, you can add red worms to the compost.

1.) GATHER, PILE & BEGIN

If you are just beginning to compost, gather an assortment of compostable items and place them somewhere in your yard out of sight. You will want to start your compost pile on bare earth as close to your garden as possible, allowing worms and other beneficial creatures to aerate your compost and naturally transport its nutrients into your garden bed. You can dig a hole and lay twigs or straw a few inches below the compost pile to help with drainage and aeration. After you have successfully begun your compost, we recommend using a bin to keep the process tidy and discourage animals from stealing your food scraps. (Your neighbors and nose will also be thankful). Additionally, a container will offer more heat for the composting materials inside and will help regulate moisture. Make a compost bin of any size. Do your best to estimate how much composting you will be doing. If you want to build your own compost bin as opposed to buying one, see the University of Missouri Extension’s crafty examples of compost bins here.

See our compiled list of compostable items below:

Material: Good for Composting?: Carbon/Nitrogen: Extra Information:
100% Cotton Clothing Yes! Carbon Best When Ripped Into Pieces, Avoid Colored Ink Where Possible
Banana Peels NO! Nitrogen May Contain Pesticide Residue That Will Prevent Decomposition
Bark Yes! Carbon Thinly Layer; Avoid Matting
Black Walnut Leaves NO! Nitrogen Contains Toxins Which Can Kill Plants
Bones MAYBE Nitrogen Good for Compost but Attracts Insects & Animals to Compost Pile
Bread MAYBE Nitrogen Slow to Decompose, Can Become Slimy
Cardboard Yes! Carbon Shred Material to Avoid Matting
Cat Litter NO! Nitrogen Can Cause Health Risks
Coal “BBQ” Ash NO! Carbon Only Use Ash from Clean Materials
Coffee Grounds Yes! Nitrogen Coffee Grounds & Filters are Great for Composting
Corn Cobs & Stalks Yes! Carbon Best When Chopped
Crab Shells Yes! Carbon Best When Crushed
Dead Bugs Yes! Carbon Fast Decomposition
Diapers NO! Nitrogen Can Cause Health Risks
Dirt from Shoes Yes! Nitrogen Avoid Using too Much
Diseased Plants NO! Nitrogen Will Spread Disease Through Compost When Spread Onto New Plants
Dryer Lint Yes! Carbon Best if Derived From Natural Fibers
Dust Yes! Carbon Take Your Sweepings & Throw ‘Em in the Pile!
Eggshells Yes! Carbon Best When Crushed
Excelsior Yes! Carbon Fast Decomposition
Farm Animal Manure Yes! Nitrogen Compost ‘Activator’
Feathers Yes! Carbon Fast De-composer
Flower Cuttings Yes! Nitrogen Chop Up Any Lengthily Wood Stems For Best Results
Fruit & Veggie Scraps Yes! Nitrogen Add w/ Dry Carbon Items
Garden Plants Yes! Nitrogen Disease-Free Plants ONLY
Grass Clippings Yes! Nitrogen Add In Thin Layers So They Don’t Mat Into Clumps
Green Comfrey Leaves Yes! Nitrogen Compost ‘Activator’
Hair Yes! Carbon Thinly Layer; Avoid Clumping
Human Manure NO! Nitrogen Can Carry Disease & Only Be Used Safely Under Very Specific Conditions
Latex Yes! Carbon Slow De-composer
Leather Yes! Carbon Best When Ripped Into Pieces, Slow De-composer
Leaves Yes! Both, Depending Leaves Break Down Faster When Shredded
Lemon & Lime Yes! Nitrogen Acidic, Do Not Over-Use
Meat MAYBE Nitrogen Good for Compost but Attracts Insects & Animals to Compost Pile
Medicine NO! Carbon May Contain Chemical Residue That Prevents Decomposition
Melted Ice Cream Yes! Carbon Compost ‘Activator’
Mud Yes! Both Compost ‘Activator’
Nail Clippings Yes! Carbon Probably a Better Idea Than Chewing Them
Newspaper Yes! Carbon Avoid Using Glossy, Weatherproof or Tough Paper & Colored Inks
Nuts MAYBE Nitrogen Very Slow to Decompose, Can Hold Up Rotting Down Process (If Used, Crush & Sprinkle Lightly)
Oil NO! Nitrogen Inability to Break Down; Can Cause Health Risks
Old Spices Yes! Nitrogen Fast Decomposition
Old Veggies & Fruits Yes! Nitrogen Nitrogen Rich, Fast Decomposition
Orange Rinds NO! Nitrogen May Contain Pesticide Residue That Will Prevent Decomposition
Pasta MAYBE Nitrogen Slow to Decompose, Can Become Slimy
Peanut Butter Yes! Nitrogen Avoid Using Too Much, Can Make Mixture Slimy
Peat Moss Yes! Nitrogen However Old, Peat Moss Makes a Great Compost Addition
Pencil Shavings Yes! Carbon Fast Decomposition
Pet Fur Yes! Carbon Thinly Layer; Avoid Clumping
Pet Manure NO! Nitrogen Can Carry Disease & Only Be Used Safely Under Very Specific Conditions
Pine Needles Yes! Carbon Acidic, Do Not Over-Use
Plastic NO! Carbon Takes Thousands of Years to Decompose
Popcorn Yes! Nitrogen Popped or Not Popped, It’s All Good
Sawdust NO! Carbon Sawdust May Contain Machine and/or Chain Oil
Seaweed & Kelp Yes! Nitrogen Apply in Thin Layers; Good Source for Trace Materials
Shredded Paper Yes! Carbon Avoid Using Glossy, Weatherproof or Tough Paper & Colored Inks
Shrub Prunings Yes! Carbon Woody Prunings Are the Slowest to Break Down
Small Rocks & Gravel NO! Neither Can Be Used In Very Small Quantities to Help Break Down Compost, Adds No Other Effect
Soil Yes! Nitrogen Soil Can Be Added to Mask Odor & Accelerate Compost Process
Spoiled Canned Foods MAYBE Both Good for Compost but Attracts Insects & Animals to Compost Pile if Meat is Included
Sticky Notes Yes! Carbon Avoid Pieces with Excessive Ink
Straw or Hay Yes! Carbon Straw is Best; Hay (w/ Seeds) Is Less Ideal
Subscriptions from Magazines Yes! Carbon Avoid Glossy Paper or Colored Ink
Synthetic Fibers NO! Nitrogen Inability to Break Down
Table Scraps Yes! Nitrogen Add w/ Dry Carbon Items
Tea Leaves Yes! Nitrogen Bags of Tea Leaves or Loose Tea Leaves Work Well
Urine Yes! Both Compost ‘Accelerator’
Used Matches Yes! Carbon Fast Decomposition
Vacuum Cleanings Yes! Carbon Fast Decomposition
Wedding Bouquet Yes! Carbon A Longer Decomposition Time Then Most Items on the List But Definitely Possible
Weeds NO! Nitrogen When Weeds Have Seeds, They Will Survive Composting Process & Weed When Compost is Applied
Wine Yes! Carbon Compost ‘Accelerator’
Wood Ash Yes! Carbon Only Use Ash from Clean Materials; Sprinkle Lightly
Wood Chips Yes! Carbon High Carbon Levels, Do Not Over-Use

Download Lane Forest Products’ Free List of Compostable Materials Here

2.) FILL YOUR COMPOST BIN WITH THE PERFECT RECIPE

You can compost just about anything, which makes collecting compostable materials an enjoyable task for the kids. You will want to give your compost a well-balanced diet. This means filling it strategically with waste that creates both nitrogen and carbon, balancing your concoction to make just the right compost for your garden. You will want to keep an eye on how many acidic items you add to your compost depending on what effect you hope your compost to have. Highly acidic compost on top of highly acidic soil rarely makes for a pleasant gardening experience, so it’s also important to understand what the pH balance of your soil is.

You can view our table below for ideas of what to add and what not to add to your compost. You will be surprised by some of the items! The table below can also serve as a guide to creating composts with higher amounts of nitrogen, carbon and acidity.


3.) MIX DIFFERENT MATERIALS

When adding items to your compost pile, remember to keep a close eye on the carbon/nitrogen ratio. All compostable materials are either carbon or nitrogen based. High doses of carbon can be found in elements like branches, stems, dried leaves, bark, egg shells and ash. Nitrogen-rich matter, synonymous with protein-rich matter, consists of manure, food scraps and healthy, green plants. Remember, a healthy compost pile has much more carbon than it does nitrogen. Too much nitrogen makes your compost dense and slower to decompose.

You want to avoid large clumps of single material. This is especially true for large quantities of green material. You want to avoid compost pile that lacks air circulation, or is too anaerobic. Composters often layer or mix their different materials within their bin.

Layering makes for a great composting technique.

If you are using a bin that has a bare earth bottom, place some straw or lightly sprinkle hay as the lowest layer. On top of this, add a lightweight layer of brown material like old leaves or newspaper scrapings. Both these layers provide aeration for your compost pile. From here, add a layer of green material. Continue growing your pile by alternating layers: brown, green, brown, green. (Besides our recommendations, you can mix anything from 3 parts brown to 1 part green to ½ and ½). Sprinkle each layer with a small amount of water as you add them.

4.) TURN YOUR COMPOST PILE WEEKLY

You can turn compost in many different ways. Many simply use a rake or pitchfork and mix their compost around within their bin as best they can. Lane Forest Products recommends creating a second compost bin and simply moving the entire pile from one bin to another. The act of moving the pile from one place to another creates aeration, encouraging aerobic decomposition. This will leave your compost pile decomposing faster and smelling better. When it is time to turn the pile again, simply move your pile back to the original bin.

You need to turn your compost at least twice a month, but we recommend turning it once every a week to encourage faster decomposition. The more you turn the pile, the faster it will decompose.

Troubleshooting:
Add green materials if your pile is too dry and add brown materials if the pile is too wet. If you are still introducing compostable matter into your pile, take the opportunity to add new ingredients immediately before beginning the turning process.

5.) HARVEST YOUR COMPOST

If all has gone accordingly to plan, you will soon find that you have a layer of usable, organic compost at the bottom of your bin. Do not remove your compost early as it will rob the soil of nitrogen as it continues to break down. If you think it’s not quite there yet, allow your compost more time. (Use your hands, a mesh screen or a pitchfork to remove larger chunks that have yet to break down. It’s always a good idea to wear gloves for protection – Lane Forest has good and inexpensive gloves at all of our kiosks).

Fresh compost can be used as a mulch, soil, fertilizer and/or soil amendment. New compost can even grow plants. Most commonly, gardeners use compost as mulch and fertilizer, using it to top off plants, mix in their soils or feed to injured plants.

For those in the Oregon area, the Oregon State University: Extension Service offers a wide variety of classes on composting. Click here for the 2015 OSU Extension Service composting class schedule.

Perhaps best of all, if hard work isn’t in your future, leave it to us!

Lane Forest Products: Springfield Yard Debris Lot