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Compost It

By Cindy Shapton

Composting is a normal process of decay. It happens in the woods naturally as plant material and leaves pile up on the forest floor and decompose, producing new food filled with nutrients for all the trees and deciduous plants and seedlings that come up each spring.

We can simulate this process for our kitchen gardens by simply piling up plant materials, kitchen wastes and leaves and waiting for it to rot down or use a ready made composter that helps to speed up the process while staying neat and tidy in the garden.

Making good compost is like making a casserole for dinner. Combine the right ingredients in layers then heat it up until it's done and dish out some fine nutrient rich fertilizer for the garden.

Most gardeners would agree there is nothing finer than a handful of rich compost you made yourself. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your composter:

Basic Ingredients to Making Compost

  • Carbon rich browns – dry woody materials
  • Nitrogen loaded moist greens – activators
  • Water – right amount of moisture is important
  • Air – speeds up decomposition
What to Put in the Composter: What NOT to put in composter:


  • Breads and grains
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Grass Clippings
  • Green plant material
  • Fruit peels and scraps
  • Non meat-eating animal manure
  • Tea bags
  • Veggie scraps


  • Cardboard, shredded
  • Newspaper, shredded (no glossy pages)
  • Leaves
  • Paper towel and toilet roll centers, shredded
  • Pine needles
  • Sawdust and wood chips
  • Shrub trimmings
  • Aggressive spreading grasses like Bermuda
  • Dairy products
  • Dog, cat, bird or people feces
  • Fish
  • Meats, fats, grease or bones
  • Noxious weeds with seed heads
  • Plants with blight or other diseases
  • Plants with major insect infestation
  • Poison Ivy or poison oak

To Speed Up the Decay Process:

  • Place composter in the sun
  • Optimum temperature should be 90 – 135 degrees
  • Rotate or turn with a fork often.
  • Keep compost moist but not wet; 50% - like a damp cloth or wrung-out sponge, too wet causes odor.
  • Use water from rain barrel, chlorine slows down the decomposition time.
  • Cut or chip large leaves, stems and branches into small pieces.
  • Layer like a casserole 2-3 parts brown to 1 part green materials.
  • Detect ammonia smell; add more brown, less nitrogen filled greens.
  • Add a scoop of garden soil or finished compost once a week.
  • Add some red worms and rollie pollies.