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 ClothingYes!CarbonBest When Ripped Into Pieces, Avoid Colored Ink Where Possible
Banana PeelsNO!NitrogenMay Contain Pesticide Residue That Will Prevent Decomposition
BarkYes!CarbonThinly Layer; Avoid Matting
Black Walnut LeavesNO!NitrogenContains Toxins Which Can Kill Plants
BonesMAYBENitrogenGood for Compost but Attracts Insects & Animals to Compost Pile
BreadMAYBENitrogenSlow to Decompose, Can Become Slimy
CardboardYes!CarbonShred Material to Avoid Matting
Cat LitterNO!NitrogenCan Cause Health Risks
Coal “BBQ” AshNO!CarbonOnly Use Ash from Clean Materials
Coffee GroundsYes!NitrogenCoffee Grounds & Filters are Great for Composting
Corn Cobs & StalksYes!CarbonBest When Chopped
Crab ShellsYes!CarbonBest When Crushed
Dead BugsYes!CarbonFast Decomposition
DiapersNO!NitrogenCan Cause Health Risks
Dirt from ShoesYes!NitrogenAvoid Using too Much
Diseased PlantsNO!NitrogenWill Spread Disease Through Compost When Spread Onto New Plants
Dryer LintYes!CarbonBest if Derived From Natural Fibers
DustYes!CarbonTake Your Sweepings & Throw ‘Em in the Pile!
EggshellsYes!CarbonBest When Crushed
ExcelsiorYes!CarbonFast Decomposition
Farm Animal ManureYes!NitrogenCompost ‘Activator’
FeathersYes!CarbonFast De-composer
Flower CuttingsYes!NitrogenChop Up Any Lengthily Wood Stems For Best Results
Fruit & Veggie ScrapsYes!NitrogenAdd w/ Dry Carbon Items
Garden PlantsYes!NitrogenDisease-Free Plants ONLY
Grass ClippingsYes!NitrogenAdd In Thin Layers So They Don’t Mat Into Clumps
Green Comfrey LeavesYes!NitrogenCompost ‘Activator’
HairYes!CarbonThinly Layer; Avoid Clumping
Human ManureNO!NitrogenCan Carry Disease & Only Be Used Safely Under Very Specific Conditions
LatexYes!CarbonSlow De-composer
LeatherYes!CarbonBest When Ripped Into Pieces, Slow De-composer
LeavesYes!Both, DependingLeaves Break Down Faster When Shredded
Lemon & LimeYes!NitrogenAcidic, Do Not Over-Use
MeatMAYBENitrogenGood for Compost but Attracts Insects & Animals to Compost Pile
MedicineNO!CarbonMay Contain Chemical Residue That Prevents Decomposition
Melted Ice CreamYes!CarbonCompost ‘Activator’
MudYes!BothCompost ‘Activator’
Nail ClippingsYes!CarbonProbably a Better Idea Than Chewing Them
NewspaperYes!CarbonAvoid Using Glossy, Weatherproof or Tough Paper & Colored Inks
NutsMAYBENitrogenVery Slow to Decompose, Can Hold Up Rotting Down Process (If Used, Crush & Sprinkle Lightly)
OilNO!NitrogenInability to Break Down; Can Cause Health Risks
Old SpicesYes!NitrogenFast Decomposition
Old Veggies & FruitsYes!NitrogenNitrogen Rich, Fast Decomposition
Orange RindsNO!NitrogenMay Contain Pesticide Residue That Will Prevent Decomposition
PastaMAYBENitrogenSlow to Decompose, Can Become Slimy
Peanut ButterYes!NitrogenAvoid Using Too Much, Can Make Mixture Slimy
Peat MossYes!NitrogenHowever Old, Peat Moss Makes a Great Compost Addition
Pencil ShavingsYes!CarbonFast Decomposition
Pet FurYes!CarbonThinly Layer; Avoid Clumping
Pet ManureNO!NitrogenCan Carry Disease & Only Be Used Safely Under Very Specific Conditions
Pine NeedlesYes!CarbonAcidic, Do Not Over-Use
PlasticNO!CarbonTakes Thousands of Years to Decompose
PopcornYes!NitrogenPopped or Not Popped, It’s All Good
SawdustNO!CarbonSawdust May Contain Machine and/or Chain Oil
Seaweed & KelpYes!NitrogenApply in Thin Layers; Good Source for Trace Materials
Shredded PaperYes!CarbonAvoid Using Glossy, Weatherproof or Tough Paper & Colored Inks
Shrub PruningsYes!CarbonWoody Prunings Are the Slowest to Break Down
Small Rocks & GravelNO!NeitherCan Be Used In Very Small Quantities to Help Break Down Compost, Adds No Other Effect
SoilYes!NitrogenSoil Can Be Added to Mask Odor & Accelerate Compost Process
Spoiled Canned FoodsMAYBEBothGood for Compost but Attracts Insects & Animals to Compost Pile if Meat is Included
Sticky NotesYes!CarbonAvoid Pieces with Excessive Ink
Straw or HayYes!CarbonStraw is Best; Hay (w/ Seeds) Is Less Ideal
Subscriptions from MagazinesYes!CarbonAvoid Glossy Paper or Colored Ink
Synthetic FibersNO!NitrogenInability to Break Down
Table ScrapsYes!NitrogenAdd w/ Dry Carbon Items
Tea LeavesYes!NitrogenBags of Tea Leaves or Loose Tea Leaves Work Well
UrineYes!BothCompost ‘Accelerator’
Used MatchesYes!CarbonFast Decomposition
Vacuum CleaningsYes!CarbonFast Decomposition
Wedding BouquetYes!CarbonA Longer Decomposition Time Then Most Items on the List But Definitely Possible
WeedsNO!NitrogenWhen Weeds Have Seeds, They Will Survive Composting Process & Weed When Compost is Applied
WineYes!CarbonCompost ‘Accelerator’
Wood AshYes!CarbonOnly Use Ash from Clean Materials; Sprinkle Lightly
Wood ChipsYes!CarbonHigh 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