Easy Composting Ideas and Receipes.

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Tell us about your composting methods.

I’d love for you to share your composting, recipes, ideas and strategies here with others.  Post a comment below.

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One Square Foot in Your Backyard.  Take a Peek.

Rule #1 about composting.

Composting doesn’t have to be a complicated, scientific, well thought out, detailed planned event.  Composting is something that you just do!  There are really no right ways to compost and no wrong ways to compost.  As long as you are piling up organic matter so it can decompose to be re-used you are doing great.

You don’t even have to pile it up or have a bin.  Just have a place to dump things that you’d like to decompose.  I don’t get crazy with my composting.  I just do it and give little thought to it.  However, I will share with you here the basic steps and ideas.

What should I compost?

1.  Anything organic that will rot down in a reasonable period of time.  Small tree branches, usually less than 1/2″ in diameter, use the rest for firewood or kindling wood.  Weeds, grass, clippings, trimmings from shrubs and trees.  Normally I’d say no dog or cat waste, and I will still say that today.  However, Amber found this about Dog Waste.

What is the correct carbon to nitrogen ration?

I have no idea!  But I’m sure somebody will give us all of that scientific stuff in a comment below.  But me?  I just don’t get that complicated.  Here’s my strategy.  I’ve got a bucket of weeds.  What do I do with it?  I’ll put it in the compost bin.  I raked up some grass clippings.  What should I do with it?  I’ll put it in the compost bin.  If I think I’ve put in too much really, really green stuff I’ll shovel some mulch or soil in and cover up the green stuff.  But truth be told, rarely do I even give it that much thought because . . .

It will rot.  It doesn’t need my help.  It will rot.

Technically you should have a layer of green material and a layer of brown material.  Don’t have any brown material?  Get on Craig’s list and find somebody selling bags of manure.  Yesterday somebody told they were buying bags of Alpaca manure for $1.00 a bag from somebody on Craig’s list.  Perfect!

Should you turn your compost?

Oh!  Absolutely you should turn your compost!

Do I?  No!  It just not going to happen.  Why?  Because each and everyday I wake up with a list of things to do, and even if turning the compost were on the list, other, more important things would take priority.  I compost okay?  Leave me alone about turning the pile.

1.  I’ve got a really weak back.  I am not going to use it up turning compost.  It will rot on it’s own!  That’s the only thing it knows how to do.

2.  When the bin is full I’ll chew it up using my Mantis Tiller then throw it on the potting soil pile.  There!  I turned it!  Happy now?   (sorry little cranky this morning.  I’m rushing to get to a nursery auction)

Mike’s Easy, No Turn Composting System.

Back at the old house I had a composting system.  If you want to call it that.  Okay, so I guess it was a system.
Here are some photos and a better explanation.

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Comments

  1. Bob Comko says

    Under the Tomatoes…….
    My yard is mostly clay soil. I recently was building another raised bed and was looking for old newspaper or cardboard to layer in the bottom of the raised bed and came up with this.. I found a bunch of old tax returns and decided they would make the perfect cover for the bottom of the raised bed. I figure if the IRS should ask me where are my tax returns from ten years ago I would simply reply ….under the tomatoes.

    • NJLeoOH says

      I was going to say, as Mike said, I just dig a hole and drop in the kitchen waste amidst my leaves and sticks and other yard, non weed waste and I have the best dirt and worms ever but you take the cake with your response!

    • Adriana says

      That is funny. I have a question though. I was uner the impression that adding weeds to your compost was not a good idea because then you would be spreading their seeds to where ever you use your compost. Any thoughts?

      • Mike says

        Adriana,

        Weed seeds have no problem getting around whether your help them or not. The wind blows them everywhere so whether or not you add weeds to your compost pile you’ll have plenty of weed seed in the pile anyway.

        • Morgan Homestead says

          I have composted tons of weeds (the real big nasty ones) and i have not had any problem with weeds using the compost. If you pick a weed, throw it in your compost pile.

  2. says

    I raise grass fed beef. In the winter they have access to a cattle shed open to the south up on a sloping mound (this keeps the bedding from getting wet on top but moist underneath). The bedding by spring is a deep accumulation of manure, urine, corn stalks, wood shavings and hay.

    During the summer I leave this mixture in the cattle shed. For some reason there are few flies and the cattle during the summer (although they spend most of the day in the pastures) will shelter from the flies and their hoofs will stir the bedding and keep it moist underneath with additional urine. By fall this bedding turns into a nice compost without any labor on our part. We do have natural fly control in the pastures with flocks of cowbirds, but on hot afternoons the birds head for shelter and the cattle head for the cattle shed. Before winter the shed is cleaned out and put on a pile outside for use the next spring on farmers market garden beds. Any additional breakdown of the pile occurs over winter.

  3. Sandy says

    My compost bin was just a pile in a ditch, I would dump grass clippings, leaves etc there, turn it if I had time or took the time.
    Then last year we made a barrel compost bin!! I put every thing in scraps from the house, egg shells, potato peels etc in a bucket under the sink and dumped it when it was full. I put grass clippings, leaves etc in it, turned it whenever we were in the area. I never put sticks in it or dirt! Last fall I got a wheel barrow full of black gold!! More enthused about it now!! But we don’t worry about turning it or putting dirt or manure in it, because we don’t have that stuff available very easily! Take it when I get it!!
    Easy way out!!

  4. Lee says

    I’m like you Mike I put very little effort into composting but, I do it that’s what matters. I built a nice big bin to hold everything. I throw my yard clippings in mostly just leaves. I also toss in appropriate food scraps (nothing processed, dairy or meat) mostly banana peels and coffee grounds. The one thing I do not put in is the weeds from weeding my flower beds. I live in FL the weeds are miserable here I want to limit the possibility of spreading them. I would say I probably don’t turn mine nearly enough but, like you said it breaks down either way maybe just a little slower for me. When I’m ready to use it, I sift out the big pieces and toss them back in the compost and only use the small pieces.

  5. says

    I use a Compost Tumbler when the weather is consistantly above 40 deg. F. 2 weeks and you have a load ready. Other times of the year I just put grass and other clippings on a pile and use them to cover up garbage (no animal products or dirt). That takes a lot longer, but this Spring I had a nice pile – no turning – to use in my pots and beds.

  6. Neil O'Donnell says

    I am new to all of this so I am just following your rules with compost. I will know a little more about it as time goes on.

  7. Neil O'Donnell says

    By the way, I think composting tax returns is a great idea. Can I go ahead and do my current one?

      • Robert Fortner says

        Hi Mike.I would like to tell you about the process in breaking down compost fast..All the commercial stuff you can buy, “expensive too”. If you read active ingredients you will see the main one in all of them is Lacto-Bacillus.I make my own,it’s very easy.heres how. You can capture these microbes from the air but thats to long of a story. Easier for you to buy a small bottle of the stuff.then use that as a starter .Take a gallon of Milk,”Lacto”.Put a little of the starter in the milk.cover with a cloth,set it in the closet somewhere.It will start to sour a bit and soon the top layer will be like cheese sorta.The liquid under that is the pure lacto-bacillus.Siphon it out into a container.will last about a year refrigerated.Countries that down have refridgeration add an equal part of mollasses to if and shelf life is up to 3 years.Anyways a couple ounces of this stuff into 5 gallons of water is far more powerfull than the stuff you can buy.Spray it on compost or on wet areas in chicken house ,barns areas what ever it will eat up bad microbes and kill smells,Its also used a lot around old septic tank area.If you can grow plants,then you can grow Microbes Mike,Give it a try.

        • Stephanie says

          Is this the same stuff (Lacto-Bacillus) that is the live culture in Yogurt?
          Is this in the probiotics they sell as well?
          I’ve made my own yogurt.. would the yogurt culture do the same thing to the milk mix concentrate as you discribe? :O)

    • Ranga says

      Bet Washington DC is generating a big pile of compost :-)
      BTW, my neighbor dumps a lot of newspapers at my door step some of which I use for house cleaning (yes wiping counters, anything glass etc). I want to compost them. What is the most practical way to shred them, with the least energy possible?

      Also, I always discard egg yolk. I throw it in the compost pile. Is this bad?

      I do not bag lawn clippings. I cut about top 1″ or less and leave it on the grass. Any comments?

      • Rick says

        To easily shred newspapers and other paper without using a lot of energy, just soak it under water in a deep bin or old tub for a few days (you can also use urine, straight or diluted). Its ready when the mix turns into a slurry with just a stirring stick. Then pour it out on your compost pile, making sure to add enough nitrogen (green stuff) to balance all the carbon (brown stuff) in the newspaper… Unless… you use urine which contains enough nitrogen (and phosphorus and other minerals). You can also dilute urine with 10 parts of water and put it directly on your garden.

        Here are some simple Compost Rules:
        1) If the compost smells like ammonia – you have too much nitrogen (green stuff)… mix in carbon (brown stuff) – sawdust, paper, brown leaves. Always better to err on the side of a little extra carbon – the pile won’t compost down as fast but it will work eventually. Even a pile of pure sawdust will rot — but it could take years.
        2) If not much happens for a long time the pile is either too dry or has too much carbon… add nitrogen (green stuff) like fresh grass clippings, hair, urine, manure. (btw, manure is ‘green stuff’ it has a low carbon to nitrogen ratio… lots of nitrogen.) And if it’s too dry, thats obvious… water it – give it a good soaking, the little ones like to swim!
        3) If the pile smells like rotten eggs or marsh gas its too wet and/or doesn’t have enough oxygen… stir it up. Its gone anaerobic (low oxygen). Tightly packed wet grass clippings can do this sometimes. Add some rough stuff like leaves to fluff it up.
        4) Compost needs sufficient air, water, carbon & nitrogen (in about a 25 to 1 ratio, but it doesn’t have to be exact), microorganisms (add some ‘dirt’), and the right temperature range.

        And now to answer your specific question Mike…

        “Why should we make and use compost?”

        Most plants need their nutrients to be in a broken down state known chemically as the ‘inorganic form’ – which isn’t the opposite of the common term ‘organic’. It just means that the complex nutrients in organic matter have to be broken down into simpler forms that plant roots can absorb. That’s what happens in a compost heap.

        Plants exude up to 50% of the energy they get from the sun — out through their roots! Why? To feed the bacteria and archaea which, in turn, feed the protozoa, which have inefficient digestive systems that ‘poop’ out nutrients in the form that plants can use. Protozoa such as amoeba, flagellates and ciliates also provide a nutrient bank which is slowly released as they die. Special kinds of fungi also form essential relationships with plants, particularly conifers. In these exchanges plants get the full array of nutrients of their ecological niche, which depends on the mineral content of the parent rock, which forms the soil.

        Think about it – no one fertilizes a forest, yet it is lush and green and beautiful. It is all the organisms down in the soil, the ‘web of life’ that makes it all possible. When we use artificial fertilizers plants simply stop exuding those special root juices (they get ‘lazy’) and then the bacteria and archaea die. Then the soil washes and erodes away because the ‘glue’ -the microorganisms- simply aren’t there in sufficient numbers to hold the soil particles together. It is the organic matter content and microorganisms that give soil a good ‘crumb’ texture.

        Herbicides and pesticides also kill microorganisms and eventually ‘hook’ the gardener — then the soil gets sick or dies and only artificial life support enables anything to grow, test tube style… however weakly and susceptible to insects and disease… which usually inspires more toxic, expensive spraying, etc., etc. Hooked. Chemical addiction. Sick. Low in nutrition as human food too!

        Anyway, Mike, that’s sort of a ‘back of the envelope’ summary on why we should make and use compost — it inoculates the soil with microorganisms and feeds them. It helps the gardener keep the soil alive. The safe, natural, inexpensive, organic way. OK, I’m running out of electronic ink. Hope that helps. Goodbye for now, Rick.

      • jason says

        It doesn’t seem that DC is capable of setting up a compost pile. The stuff just gets flung nation wide and stinks.
        If you want to shred your paper, the most efficient way is probably a paper shredder. Make sure you mix it well. Too much paper, especially shredded paper, can gum up the works. You have to balance the carbon with nitrogen from another source. The way I’d use is to use it in layers in a compost pile. That or, if you have lots of creative energy and some time, puree it and press it into large sheets of thick paper on some window screen.
        I’ve never had problems with the whole broken eggs that I throw on our compost pile. But they are a very small part of our compost. They might attract critters to your pile though.
        Regarding grass clippings left on the lawn, I don’t think it hurts it much if you leave it to break down there. If you need nitrogen material for your compost pile (or to mulch with) it may be worth it to bag it as you mow. or to get lots of exercise raking.
        I hope this helps.

        • jason says

          sorry, I should have clarified with the pressed paper thing, you would use that end product as a mulch to keep weeds down or to prepare a bed. Put the paper down and than put some nitrogen stuff down on top of that lasagna gardening style.

    • SherryM says

      You must keep your tax information for 7 years. that’s in Canada anyway.

      I used cardboard to make a new garden bed many years ago and the area still seldom gets weeks..

      My neighbour pays for large compost bin which is picked up every few weeks…and they leave a bag of compost when they pick up.

  8. suzanne says

    Check with your local library..when they ‘weed out’ old magazines & newspapers many times they will give them away so they don’t go into a dumpster. Recycling doesn’t want slick paper but they will decompose eventually. The thickness of the magazine makes a good base or liner for the compost bin. I overlap the magazines slightly or lay them end to end with a second overlapping layer—depending upon how many I receive. Works for me!

    • says

      not so on the magazines. All newspaper print that is black is made with a soy based ink that is safe. Magazines and slick colored newspaper ads are often made with the old style ink which can be toxic to the soil.

      • says

        What a lot of great ideas~! I do vermicomposting, using red wriggler worms. They have been found to be the best worm for composting.I dump my kitchen scraps into a bucket (no meat or processed foods)and feed the worms their organic meals. This cuts way down on “garbage” and the return is beautiful black compost, FULL of micro-organisms that adjust the soil to a perfect balance. Worm bins can be purchased at our website, or you can make one if you have the right non-toxic materials. Never use newspaper in composting, because of the toxicity of the ink & the clay base in the paper. For more on Vermicomposting, check out the website at Laverme’s Worms! We have worm juice full of microorganisms for sale, too!

    • jason says

      sorry to disagree, but you really don’t want to compost slick paper. It has chemicals in it that will leach into your compost, soil and any food that’s grown in that soil. It’s mostly unharmful stuff, but there are heavy metals in there that are not good for you. It is good, however, for wiping car windows and what not with after you wash it. It leaves the shine on the window. I hope this helps.

  9. J. M. Biesche says

    Hi, Mike. I use the old farmer’s method. Dig a trench and pile the dirt on one side. Fill the trench with compostable materials, adding a shovel full of the dirt every so often. When the trench is half full, dig a new trench next to it and pile the new dirt on the old trench, and repeat. No muss, no fuss, great compost. Love your blog.

    • Belinda says

      I do the same spring, summer, and fall, but in winter the ground is frozen too hard to work. That’s when my raked leaves go to work. In the fall, I fill black plastic bags half full of leaves, add a couple of shovels of garden soil, and tie the top loosely. Then when my kitchen compost container is full, I add that and flip the bag over a few times to mix. By spring it’s half way to compost.

      I also stack the bags on the north side of my covered rows of winter greens–helps keep them a little warmer!

  10. Rick Miller says

    Where I get my big boost in compost is in the fall. I get in touch with mulch dealers or those that deliver mulch in bulk and buy their fines, or the older compost setting around their yard. Many times they will have some small quantities of miss match colors or some mulch that already breaking down. They would not be able to sell this type of material the following year, so we are doing them a favor helping them clean their yards. Last year I was directed to a company that makes the mulch. They had about 60 cubic yards of fines from their screenings. They offered a great deal and delivered it free just to get rid of it. I also have some local farmers who have old straw or hay that they can not sell for livestock feed. They bring that to me or I pay them to bring it to me. It goes in a stack, mixed up. I throw some fertilizer on the stack as I build it up to help break it down. It is good stuff after a year or two.

  11. Nancy Lenk says

    I just started composting. I have a corner in the yard where I dump some leaves, throw some coffee grounds and left over vegetable and fruit peels and ends

  12. Keith says

    I keep a quart butter bowl to put raw vegetable parings from a week full of cooking then take to my compost pile, dig a hole, pour, then layer cow manure/soil mix over this…dark rich compost results ! Will report on success after this growing season. Have a blessed day !

  13. pete says

    all kitchen scraps (no meat, oil, or fat) goes to the pile behind the shed. along with chicken poop from our chickens. i turn the pile as often as i can… i try to do this at least weekly. plus, i put a can of coke and a can of beer in a hose end sprayer and wet the pile with this. it feeds and activates the bacteria that help break down organic material so it breaks down in half the time.

  14. casey says

    Kitchen waste, coffee grounds from shop near by, overgrown grasses and turn. It is not the most efficient method, but it is easy and requires little effort. I mulch the garden beds with grasses that i don’t want. i let my grasses grow tall, then use as mulch and compost.

  15. Andi (UK) says

    I blend all of my food waste in my Vitamix blender and then just pour it onto my plants and flower beds instant liquid fertiliser

    • Cathy Beville says

      My Mom taught me that trick years ago, but you are the first person I have heard that uses it besides myself. I call it “Granny’s Tonic” and it has saved many of my trees and shrubs! Instant plant food!

  16. Judith Vandermeer says

    We have horses, so we compost the manure and shavings in a huge pile. My husband turns it from time to time with the front end loader. Since our compost pile is where the horses can get access to it, we cannot compost fruit or veggis (besides that, the left over fruit and veggies are fed to the chickens and they recycle them into eggs).

  17. David Hodge says

    I live in the high desert and have either sandy soil or clay. I take grass cuttings from my son-in-law and vegie waste from the kitchen and put them in a rotating composter I have.

  18. Paul Crowe says

    I have several compost bins [8] each is 4.8m x 2.4m x 1.8
    [15'9" x 7'10" x 5'10"] each has a 16″ layer of green material leaves brassica and the top of root crops + any surplus crops 16″ of straw or bracken and 2″ of Poultry manure then repeated twice left for 6 weeks and then turned by throwing it into empty bin next to it and left for another 4-5 weeks at which time it is sieved through a 6mm [1/4"] mesh and used.

  19. Janet Talmadge says

    I work in Engineering field and we have lots of coffee drinkers here, so I put a 1 gallon bucket out everyday for a couple of weeks with a sign saying ” please deposit the coffee grounds and filters for my compost bin” at one of the kitchen area’s and sure enough it is full everyday . I also get the shredded paper from the large shredder a couple of times a month to put in my compost bin as well. I just want to say I just purchased Mike’s gardening package and I want to say…thank you I have truly enjoyed watching and reading your wealth of information. I moved last year on 2 1/2 acres in Conroe TX and I have already stated my vegatable garden and so I take the left overs from harvesting and the scrape indoor to my compost tumbler and put this along with horse manure i get from a friends farm…..beside leaves from the many trees we have as well.

    Thanks Mike…
    Keep up the good work!

    • Mike says

      Thank Janet, great ideas! Conroe, Texas huh. I’ve been there. Duston used to live in Spring and Willis and I always thought it was the perfect area for a backyard nursery because Houston is encroaching on the rural areas and it appears that some of the zoning in out lying areas is more relaxed. That’s a good thing, because those who get started now are grandfathered in and have little to worry about. Or at least should be!

  20. enuffsaid says

    I have two old garbage cans, plastic. For some holidays I sell roses and other floral arrangements from live plants. So far, not from what I’ve grown. I haven’t tried growing any roses yet, but I hear they do well in Tucson. At any rate, I have been taking the leftovers of filler plants wax flowers, baby’s breath and the leftover roses and cutting them into pieces with my clippers on the stems. The stems I cut into two or 3 inch pieces and make a layer out of them. Then I shovel a layer of dirt, just enough to cover the plant material. I also have an empty coffee can and an empty large margarine tub that sets outside the door on top of an outside refrigerator. I fill these up with old coffee grounds, vegetable pairings and peels, and peels from my little cuties (the little tangerines with no seeds) and any other organic things from the cooking. I do not put meat, bones, fat or oil in the compost. I put a layer of dirt, just enough to cover the scraps. When the garbage can is half full, I just shovel it into the bottom of the next garbage can. Then I start layering again over the top of that half in the same garbage can. When that garbage can is full, I shovel half of it, the top half, into the second garbage can, which should be empty until I put this half in it. The half that is in the other garbage can is now ready for use. I take the other garbage can, which I have left half of the compost in and start layering again. This might sound complicated but it’s really just shoveling back and forth between the two cans. Sometimes the whole garbage can is ready for compost use. I have also started using the fig leaves that fall off in the fall as an alternating layer with the dirt. So a layer of scraps from the kitchen, a layer of fig leaves, a layer of dead flowers, the layer of dirt, and repeat until that garbage can is half full. Then turn it into the empty garbage can and keep layering until the can is full. Then turn half of that in to the garbage can you emptied and keep layering that one. The half that is left in the other garbage can may now be used as mulch, soil or whatever you want to use it as. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Just give it a try.

    • Ranga says

      Reading your blog started me thinking. I had a broken plastic mailbox (the lid is not functional) that I was reluctant to throw away. I will now start using this to dispose off kitchen waste. May be I will find another one like this and then I can use your approach to alternate between them. Thanks

  21. Bob Donker says

    We compost all left over greens in a compost pail under the counter, and when full take it out side to a large compost container.
    Every time we empty out kitchen container, we spread some dirt over it and once a month some fertilizer for good measure.
    Come spring all of this gets spread over the garden and rototilled in.

  22. Doug T says

    I have conditioned my family to save all food scraps minus meat, fats, processed food into a large coffee can that gets emptied every other day (there’s 10 of us) into either a large trash bin or a hole in the ground. As often as possible I dump yard clippings and tree trimmings into the mix, but not in any ratio or order. I also use waste from a desert tortoise and a rabbit that eat only natural food. I’m pretty sure the piles get to 165 with the help of the desert sun! What is composting now will be next year’s fertilizer when I turn the garden in the fall/winter. That’s about as easy as it gets! All the Geckos and hummingbirds love the insects it attracts, too!

    • Dee Dee says

      I live in the desert also,I’ve been trying to compost for a while but it seem to take a lot of continual water with the sand and lack of humidity. It just doesn’t seem to work well. So I tried using a plastic garbage can add scrapes coffee grounds, and water give it a stir, then I noticed the cute little ground squarrles were jumping in and getting trapped in and left to die. Any ideas?

      • Genie says

        If using a garbage can, keep the lid on it to keep the critters out. Mine has small holes drilled all over it for air circualtion.

  23. Alicia says

    I started a compost pile probably close to two yearsago.All the kitchen scraps from fruits and veggies plus egg shells go in there, sometimes some brown paper bags or brown potato bags, dry leaves, garden clippings, dead flowers and plants. Almost everything is organic (USDA organic seal). I thought I was doing a good job but I do not see decompossing, and I’m doing just as you are Mike! not turning it! We’ve had a very cold and snowy winter and rains a lot around here when not snowing, spring and summer, so I do not see any ‘compost’ per se, although the pile is very well ventilated, and in the midst of summer some trees offer their shade over it,
    from time to time I go and sniff and doesn’t smell bad… which is my concern… Am I doing the right thing? How long should we keep a compost pile before we can use the product from it? Thank You Mike! I love your information!

    • Bil Ward says

      I live in a very dry, cool climate; high desert(not the best for composting.) I put my pile in the sunniest spot in my yard (composting is a “hot” process.) This dries the pile out, so I have to WATER MY PILE when I water the yard. I also do vermicomposting (worm bins, see my post). So, my suggestion is to make sure your pile is hot and moist. You might also want to check out the book “Old Time Gardening Wisdom”, for a recipe for a compost pile starter to get the necessary microorganisms started growing.

  24. tony w says

    I go around to restaurants and get their vegetable prep left overs and put them in my red wriggler bin. Them suckers can eat.

  25. Debbieg says

    Hi Mike, I have just started composting this winter. I have been storing all my kitchen waste in 5 gal. buckets w/lids outside, I have 8 now. It is just getting warm enough to make a compost bin to layer the waste with leaves and grass. I have checked the buckets and everything looks good. I was surprised as to how much waste my husband and I had but it sure cut down on the trash hauling.

  26. says

    Mike I havent really ben composting I just trow everithing to the chicken and I put straw or hay in their nesting boxes every so often I shovel it out into the garden plot other wise I’ve put steer manuer down when I turn the ground over. I really would like to help people to make money using a natural supplement go to robinfenn . vemma . com. You will need to type this in with no spaces then people will have better health, energy, and finances to buy your system and to be on your support forum.

  27. Karen B says

    I have five hoop coops for the chickens roughly 8′x9′. They are put on a foundation of straw bales for winter with more loose straw in the middle, more added as it gets soiled. By spring when the birds can go out on pasture, the straw pack is almost as high as the bale sides. I also have several horses and do the same with their shelter bedding. I build a huge compost pile out of it all — 3 tons of straw (could have used another ton) plus all the manure from 12 tons of hay and the chicken feed. I may use the foundation bales for a straw bale garden this year.

  28. Chris says

    I am a veteran, disabled, a gardener living south of Mike in Northeast Ohio and a very lazy composter. I have a pile I have been working for years. I piled up yard waste, dirt, grass, weeds and added good organic kitchen waste. I turn my pile a little bit when I add more from the kitchen but other then that, nature takes it’s course. I have the greatest tomatoes, potatoes and corn from my pile and I just keep adding to it. I use more then I can produce but nature is your best friend. Turn your pile a little when you add, let the rain water your pile and enjoy it, don’t be a slave to it. So what if there is a few chunks, it will be a welcome surprise in your garden later in the year. Last year I grew the greatest potatoes and tomatoes by accident. Don’t kill yourself, recycle your veggies and you will be rewarded. Composting should be like gardening, it’s not work, it’s relaxing.

  29. Mary S. says

    I have two different composting going on at the same time. First, I have a composter that I fill with yard and table scraps. I keep a bowl on my counter for the table scraps which include uneaten veggies (if no butter added to the “main” bowl), peels, fruit leftovers, egg shells, “outdated” fruits and veggies that got forgotten in the fridge, old bread, cake, cookies, left over coffee, coffee dregs from unfinished coffee (I used to add the coffee grounds and filter but now use them for growing mushrooms), water used for steaming veggies, undrunk “green drinks” (veggies and fruit blended together to make a very healthy if unpalatable sounding drink, it is actually quite tasty), tea and tea bags, sprinkle a little epsom salts over the top each time I’m going to take it to the composter (adds magnesium). I add garden cuttings (spent flowers, tomatoes gone bad, etc.) plus some dried up leaves and my shredded “personal papers”. Then I add about a gallon of water, close the composter and give it several spins, stopping halfway between every third of a turn to give everything time to drop down into the mix. I spin it a few times every day, whenever I’m in the vicinity of my garden shed. I don’t go and buy expensive starter, I add a shovel full of garden soil a couple times when I’m adding the scraps to it. If I can afford it I stop at a bait shop and get a container each of night crawlers and red worms and dump them in to help it along. I get good rich compost to plant in (I dig the planting hole deeper than necessary and put a good handfull of the compost in it, add a layer of garden soil I just dug out, put in the plant and fill it with garden soil, watering it in well. If I have any compost left after the planting, I put a handful or so around the top of each plant I’ve just put in and water again. I used to add the dregs of my late husband’s beer, but no more of that, although I do add the dregs of my soda or veggie drinks. My second composting is just a pile for yard waste. If I’ve got a scissors or pruner in my pocket I chop it a little smaller, but not necessarily. To this I add shredded newspaper (black ink print only, no colors and DEFINITELY none of the shiny pages). Between each layer I hose it down, add the next layer, hose it down, etc. When I’ve run out of materials for the moment, I throw an old piece of carpeting over the pile and let it cook (gets hot enough my dog used to lay on it when it was below freezing when I lived up north). As I gather more garden waste while cleaning up around some plants as they are finishing their cycle, I stack them up, keep them damp and add them to the pile after a while, maybe once month. It’s a longer method, but the compost this way is fabulous. I collect fallen apples and other fruits from my willing neighbors (if you’ll pick them up you can have them) and add them each time I’m adding another batch of garden cleanup. Each time I add ingredients to this do-it-for-me pile, I throw a couple of shovels of dirt on top and another layer of shredded newspaper and again wet it all down. Just like with the composter if I can afford it I add some night crawlers and red worms to this pile before throwing on the dirt. Next spring you’ve got the most fertile compost with the least amount of work, plus diligent worms to keep your soil softened and fertile with their castings. I replace the carpet each time I get done wetting down the pile. I keep both the composter and the compost piles in full sun for the ambient heat. No turning, just let it go under the carpet and it’s ready by spring.

  30. says

    KIS… keep it simple. i put everything that will decay. I have two garden beds and plan a third and will just rotate one for composing. I use everything no branches even my dogs do do… grass clipings will keep it hot so that words fine and i water the sun will heat it up just as well and the worms and bugs will take care of it.. flip it once a quarter or once a month. KIS

  31. jamie says

    I am surprised. No one has put the ratio. I believe it is 30:1 or (30 parts Carbon: 1 part Nitrogen. Close enough. Things like grass clippings are almost the perfects ratio.

    I have my compost on an old cement pad my grandfather poured for his German Shepard’s kennel. I just leaned up some cement boards 4×8 and add dirt, grass and yard waste (excluding rocks and large sticks) and add tons of food from the house and from the nursing home I used to work at. (excluding dairy and meat). turn every 4-6weeks. I also cover it with a tarp when its a downpour. Seattle. Oh and I’ve put a massive amount of worms from the surrounding area. They multiple and are as fat as my thumb!

  32. judy says

    I had gotten away from composting. However, this blog has whetted my appetite to do so again. I had originally used 4 pvc pipes for corners of a make-do bin and wrapped chicken wire around it. It served well. I think i went about 4 feet square. I never thought about covering it with a top. Maybe 3 ft sq would be better with a top.

    Never used a thermometer either; just went with what nature provided. Thanks for all your info,.

  33. Ken says

    I put all my yard waste into my garden rows (grass clippings, leaves and small sticks. Also egg shells. I use leaves and grass clipping around my plants to keep soil moist and the weeds down. In spring I mix the composed with my garden rows to keep the planting soil enriched with the composed material. Keeping the ward waste into the garden keeps the weeds down. Very simple method. Ken

  34. Jen Jones says

    Hello Mike,
    I put all veggie and fruit peelings or scraps into a pile. I take old roots from plants that have been harvested from my garden and toss them into the pile and throw dead leaves and mowed grass into the pile. Then I make a big mound and spray it down with a little bit of water every couple of days and turn it and wait to find clumps of mold growing on it and keep tossing…oh yeah and I throw dried crushed egg shells in it too!

  35. Penelope says

    We use a purchased, turn-able, black plastic compost bin – we’ve had it for years. We fill it with grass clipping, kitchen scraps, dried leaves and shredded news paper. It seems to be working great as we have a nice population of earth worms moving in. Most of our gardening is aquaponic as well as hydroponic so we’re using the compost only to amend soil for potatoes and onions. Very happy with the results.

  36. Cathy says

    We dont have a bin we just pile our clippings and kitchen waste in a corner and turn every once in a while but it works :)

  37. Anneas says

    We are fortunate to live on a farm. We built a compost bin against the cement block wall of the milk house where the rain runs off the roof directly into the bin. The bin itself is steel fence posts pounded in the ground and discarded wood pallets wired to the posts(2 pallets each side). Fill with garden and lawn waste,annual planters dumped at end of season, pumpkins, egg shells, etc. until the bin is full. Let it cook thru the winter. In spring pull back the top layer that hasn’t rotted and use the decomposed material underneath. After taking out all the decomposed material I want, my husband takes the tractor with the front loader and piles up what’s left and we start the process over. If there is more rotted material than I can use, we move it with the loader to a separate pile for use throughout the summer. Couldn’t be easier!!!

  38. Jim says

    I use lock lid plastic barrels that I drilled holes in for composting kitchen waste. They store in a small area and I just roll them around every couple weeks to mix it up. It works good for my raised beds.

  39. DIane says

    I have rabbits and chickens. I spread their manure on my garden spot. Depending on how soon I will plant, I may put the “hot” manure on a fallow spot .By the time it is OK to use it is time to plant the fall garden. Rabbit poop attracts lots of earthworms which I want.
    I have aged horse manure in the stalls that I also use.

  40. says

    I have always composted, using vegetation such as vegetables and fruit scraps, grass clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags. I do not use animal waste unless it comes from a vegetarian animal, like an iguana, cow, etc. Carnivores often have bacteria, viruses and parasites in their fecal material, that can be transmitted to humans.
    For example toxoplasmosis can be transmitted to humans through cat feces. This parasite can be devastating to an unborn fetus. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasmosis
    Another parasitic infection, pinworms, comes from dogs, cats and other animals. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinworm_infection
    Yet another is ascaris See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascaris
    Let’s not forget about E Coli which can be fatal to the very young, old and immunocompromised. This bacteria is normally found in fecal material of most animals, humans and birds. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_coli
    So in conclusion, I would recommend only clean sources for your compost pile.

  41. says

    well i start buy were do i do i want my next garden spot and i start a compost pile with hay cow nure tree leves grass clipings acorns and wala so i have gardens all over my propertyand if i run out of room i start over on the oldest pile works well for me

  42. Glenna Jorgensen says

    I have a large trash can, with a lid, that I have drilled holes in that I put everything I can think into to use for compost. No animal feces, that goes somewhere else. I have a container in the kitchen that I but all coffee grounds, egg shells and other such item.
    Every so often I take this trash can/composter , before it is full and roll it around on it’s side to help mix all the things in it together. Seems to work well for me.
    I live in KY in an area of red dirt and lots of rocks and rrock formations. I have been putting my compost on hill that had no grass and now , after 4 years I am seeing grass .

  43. Melody Harpole says

    I have chickens, I give them all my scraps. Then in the fall, I clean out their house and dump the contents on the garden.

    Grass clippings and woodchips go directly on the garden as mulch. Large plants, such as corn and tree trimmings, go to the goats.

  44. Lisa says

    I started composting after I got a lawn tractor with double bagger and had too much grass clippings. I just dump them in one corner of my yard, which is adjacent to the neighborhood pool. In the fall, I mow the fallen leaves, which helps mulch them and vacuum them up and layer those over the grass clippings. We also save old coffee grounds, egg shells, ends and peels from cut up veggies and fruit and put them in old coffee cans until they are full then dig a hole in the compost heap and dump the coffee can contents in there and cover it up (my dog likes to go up there and find treasures, so we try to bury it deep). In the spring, I move off most of the top covering and start filling up containers with this black gold to put in planting beds. There are tons and tons of worms, so you know that this is good stuff!

  45. vanessa says

    I bought several compost bins, then read about an easier way. I use black trash bags filled with fall leaves, try to get the finer, filagree leaves. Throw in some dirt, coffee grounds, plant food, food scraps, and greens. Mix it up by turning the bag over several times, then poke holes in the bag, and throw in some water. Put bags in a sunny spot, preferably on the ground, so worms have access, but sometimes on a cement pad. Starting in spring, turn the bags occasionally, add water when it looks dry. No need for a pitchfork; faster, cuz you stir it like a compost tumbler; already bagged up and ready to throw in a garden cart.

  46. Hari says

    I’m surprised that no one mentioned that it is not a good idea to add any weeds that have gone to seed. When I checked my pile yesterday – I have about 6 daylilies sprouting. Guess where the roots I dug up last fall ended up. I’m about to turn 79 so I only turn my compost bin over when I add kitchen scraps. Mostly I forget to cut up the garden waste into little pieces, but when I remember it makes a big difference to the decomposing time. Think I’ll go stir things up a bit.

  47. Stephen Bryant says

    I live on a small lot in an urban parts of Medford, Oregon. My sections of back yard that were dedicated to growing are mostly occupied by our new deck. However, our tax return this year is going into making three raised bed that will border the deck and the back fence which serves as the property line. I purchased a couple of those compost drums and found that they are a waste (no pun intended)of money. Anyway, due to lack of space, we will be doing our composting by adding garden and kitchen waste directly to the top soil in the beds. The local master gardeners that broadcast on a radio garden show here said that that works fine if you don’t have the room for a compost pile. I love your emails and I have successfully propagated several plants from cuttings in both a cedar flat with a clear cover striped with white paint, and two plastic tubs coved with white trash bags. Right now, I am trying to propagate some Spirea, Photinia, Russian Sage, Red Twig Dogwood, and some other shrub that has red blossoms that I haven’t yet identified.

  48. Jim Reed says

    Mike, Thank you for helping the young or new gardeners overcome some of their reluctance to start. Sure oldtimers need reminding occasionally. Keep up your good work. Jim in Leakey, TX, USA

  49. Singmore says

    I compost because it’s one thing I can do to help the increasingly ravaged earth. I have redworms in the basement and a leafpile out back to which I add veggies,etc when the worms have enough. We compost at church, with a tumbler just outside the building.

    It feels good. And the flowers: wow.

  50. says

    Love all this information. My compost pile doesn’t seem as large as others here. I compost all veggie & fruit scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, grass clippings, leaves and old dirt from potted plants when I have to replant anything. I try not to add weeds or sticks. I am like Mike, in the sense that I don’t make it complicated and I use my Mantis Tiller to turn mine every so often. I love it. I like the idea of the carpet to cook the pile and may have to pick up a scrap piece somewhere. Thanks for sharing everyone.

    • Judi says

      Natalie, try your local carpet installer for that piece of carpet. They are usually more than happy to have someone take away the carpet they have torn out of someone’s house. Some people around me actually use carpet laid over cardboard as walkways & weed suppressors in their gardens. :)

  51. Mary S. says

    I forgot to add I include hair clippings and lost hair from my comb as well as nail clippings. Most importantly I forgot to add why I compost – so I have a natural, nonchemical rich fertilizer for my garden beds. I don’t worry about adding weeds with seeds, the heat is enough to kill them, and if some survive, I know the difference between what I planted and what’s coming up weeds.

  52. JEAN says

    I keep a non-recyclable “take-out” container on the kitchen counter which can be discarded when past use. All egg shells, veggie and fruit kitchen waste except meat, gravies, fats etc. is used. These I put in a large round composting bin with grass, leaves, weeds etc. I punch holes with a pole and water occasionally.There is a door at the bottom to get compost that’s ready for use. Since this is a suburban area, I can’t use the open methods. Even though it’s an city type situation
    , the “critters” would raid it. I’m also 86 and not up to a lot of turning etc. I’m from a generation that abhors wasting anything!

  53. Ron Shafer says

    Here where I live in Bay county Florida people like me so much that complete strangers leave big bags of mulch and compost material next to the curb for me to pick up for free. I take them home and add water to the bags and let them lay in the Florida sun for a month or two. When I open the bags its composed and I spread it around. Couldn’t be easier.

  54. Jennie says

    I have a worm bin that much of my kitchen waste goes into. If I have more than they can use it goes into one of those black plastic bins with holes that I got free at a worm composting class! (I have three of those) In it is also some grass clippings, (I put most as mulch around trees and plants) dropped fruit, pine needles and cones, and any other yard waste. I also have a huge pile of manure that I’m sure contains straw, that slowly breaks down to become beautiful potting soil!

  55. Diana says

    Not able to compost here – can’t find or build one that meets my requirements – very inexpensive and rat proof.

  56. Iffitz says

    Our family of three generates less than one grocery bag of actual garbage each week because we recycle and compost everything we can.

    All garden waste, all vegetative kitchen scraps (including breads etc), paper towels, tissues etc go to the compost bins. We have a clear pretzel-rod container on the kitchen counter to deposit scraps and it goes out to the bins as filled (dig a whole in the middle of the ‘building’ bin, dump new scraps, cover.

    I live in the ‘burbs, so I’ve got to keep it neat. The bins are two 4X4X4 coated-wire bins sited directly on the gound, and under a couple of HUGE arborvitae. I paid about $19 for them 20+ years ago, and they are still going strong.

    I’ve never had a problem with rodents, though I will probably make wire covers for them this year because the crows/ravens have started pulling stuff out the last two seasons, and I tire of cleaning up after them. We do house the world’s fattest/laziest raccoon in the trees that shade my bins. (She never has to step foot on the ground, just comes down each evening to see what’s fresh in the bins.) Of course, she turns the bins for me, so its a fair trade off.

    We build-up one bin while the other is ‘cooking’ The building bin gets turned when I empty (and seive out) the finished cooking bin. I build with weekly grass clippings and garden leavings mixed with shredded leaves and wood chips I keep on standby.

    In Spring (after I prune the Spring flowering shrubs) I run all the Winter-fall branches, the holiday tree, any winter fruit/nut tree prunings and other woody scrap I have/can find through my wood-chipper and set the chips aside in cheap ‘pop-up’ bins next to the compost bins. In the Fall I shred our leaves and hold them in a third/temporary wire bin. Through the growing season I mix tose ‘browns’ in with the ‘greens’ of grass clippings, weeds, Spring clean up, garden cuttings/trimmings, etc. I water when I build a full pile, then leave it to mother nature. I do pour cooled cooking water (from boiling potatoes or corn or bean soaking) on the ‘building’ pile as available.

    My bins sit directly on the ground so the worms and microbes migrate up into them, also they get a kicker from turf/dirt clumps that go in when I edge the drive, walks and beds a few times a season.

    I usually try to empty both out right before the leaves start to fall, so I can ‘build’ at least one by layers with the Fall garden clean-out.

    They rarely freeze, so I can usually dig/bury fresh kitchen scraps in most of the Winter. I have a metal trash can on the patio to hold excess scraps during snow cover/freeze periods until we can dig them in during thaws. (It a little fuller right now as I decided to hold off putting ‘fresh’ in the piles until I clean them both out this weekend – - I’m putting in new beds and I want all that compost.

    When I empty the ‘finished’ bin, I seive it out, and all the ‘bigger’ stuff goes back in the new pile as starter. I get over 150 gallons of finshed/seived compost out of each bin twice a year – - way more than I can usually use on my small yard. I bag up the excess in sand bags for my brother (12 bags), my neighbor (6) and (until last Spring) my late father (12) for their HUGE veggie gardens.
    I get so much produce from each of them in return that I only need to tend a little 4×4 veggie bed (tomatoes and a few salad veggies and herbs)for ourselves!

    My husband teases me that I only garden so I can compost. He and my daughter tell people I like to ‘make dirt.’ I love when guests ask about the kitchen-counter scraps bin, so I have an excuse to show-off my fine-sieved finished compost stored out back.

    Favorite book on composting is “Let it Rot!”

  57. Betty Raiford says

    I currently have a plastic compost bin that I got from Sam’s Club several years ago. It makes a convenient spot to put all the kitchen vegetable trimming scraps and – when I get around to doing it – leaves and other vegetation from my yard. Like you, I don’t pay a lot of attention to turning it because I’m too darned busy with other things.
    My best composting that I ever did, however, was when I used to go into my yard, dig a trench about 15 inches deep and put those vegetable scraps into it. I would cover it immediately with dirt. I let that sit for several months, while I continued to move over a little bit at a time digging a new trench for each bunch of vegetable scraps. Eventually, I’d go back and turn each of those areas. I ended up with some really rich soil where I had started with some terribly hard black clay that was almost impossible to work with.

  58. L says

    I live in the city and tried all sorts of ways to compost, and until I found the rotating barrel method, I always had rats if I tried to incorporate kitchen waste. So for a long time I only composted things no more nutrient dense than yard waste.

    Now I have two barrel composters. To start a new batch, I fill the bin with fall leaves that I have stolen from my neighbors’ curbside leaf bags in the fall, and hoarded till needed. Then I add kitchen waste and any green lawn trimmings. If necessary I add water so that everything in the bin is moist. I keep adding “greens” until the second bin is ready and this bin’s contents is reduced to about half.

    When the second bin is ready to use (volume is reduced to about 1/4 full), I empty it and replenish it as described above. Now all my additions are only going to the second bin, and the first bin is left to finish off.

    What comes out is more of a mulch than it is like soil. I let the worms finish off the process.

  59. Bob says

    I did not subscribe to garbage pickup. In my area it costs $30 a month from very competitive and aggressive major garbage collectors. I am certain it is a profitable business.

    I bury kitchen scraps (no meat) once a week. We finally bought a nice looking stainless steal bucket to collect it in.

    Quarterly, I take our stored recycles (paper, plastics, cardboard, bottles, cans, etc.) to the Waste Management Center together with my one commercial bag of waste (for which I pay $3.00).

    Over the spots where I have buried garbage I plant cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, pumpkin, etc. These plants absolutely love it.

    Leaves, tree trimmings, etc. have a designated spot in touch with dirt. They really do decompose themselves.

    So why pay $360 a year, when $12 does our needs just fine and provides soil enrichment.

    By the way, I am a free-to-air, or antenna, person. Why waste money on subscriptions?

    We do support our local theater, art, symphony and farmer markets.

  60. Richard Miller says

    I have three piles 2011, 2012, 2013. I start a new pile in July and add grass and weeds. 8 Acres of lawn and garden debris produce huge piles of compost used in the lawn and gardens. Free Soil! A pile is 15′ X 8′ x 10′ high. I like Mike don’t have the time or inclination to turn it. That’s why it takes three years to decompose.

  61. Carol says

    I have at least two composte piles going at any one time due to lots of trees in the yard and my gardens. Everything compostible from the kitchen goes in, and I turn them a couple of times a year when I tidy up before and after winter! I used to haul home fruit and vegetable waste from where I work, but I ended up inviting lots of groundhogs to move in, raccoons visited and there was always the possibility of skunks! So, it’s slower, less diverse, but the end result is still pretty nice. My favorite thing has to be that i use the compost heaps to foster plants that haven’t found their final home yet, and that butterflies seem to hang out on the heaps all the time.

  62. says

    Mike, my composting system is pretty much exactly like yours. I would probably get finished compost a little quicker if I did everything just right but I am happy with my methods.

    And besides, I am a little on the lazy side!

    Lewis

  63. says

    Compost Bin? How about vermiculture. I started this ten years ago. Laid down heavy hard plastic sheeting in an area about 4′ x 6′. Tossed in all yard waste, kitchen scraps, any throw-away paper and cardboard, etc. Ordered one carton of red wigglers and tossed them in. They do all the work. Start the pile on one end of the area, and as you add the refuse, the worms travel through eating all the refuse and leaving behind their wonderful worm castings. When I get to the other edge, I shovel out the processed castings, then begin to add refuse back the other way! Too easy! The only thing I have to do is keep the pile moist. Bottom plastic layer keeps the worms from leaving the area.

  64. Randy says

    I’m trying worm composting. Red worms will leterally eat half of their body weight in one day. Thats for the kitchen scraps. The yard waist goes in the garden. First as mulch around the plants then gets turned into the soil at the end of the season and again in the spring. helps break up the clay.

  65. says

    Mike I do composting, my hubby thinks its silly. However, this compost is in a large old waste management bin, and after 2 years of putting stuff in there, it can’t be moved. I guess it would take 2 people to just dump it over, so I will try to get someone to help me or hubby. I’m 75 years old, so I am not strong like I use to be, but I love to garden. I’ve got so much ‘stuff’ I can compost. Every time I weed.

    PS-I love your backyard system, but I don’t know where I would get the buyers for all my rooted plants. I have far too many plants, but I love them all.

    • Erick Oshel says

      Hi Mary,
      You had a problem with your compost bin becoming too heavy to move. I had a couple ideas that may help.
      Do you own your bin or does it belong to a waste removal service?
      1) If your bin is owned by a service, ask your waste removal service to replace your bin with a new one, (They often do this especially if the bin is several years old. They will want to move an empty bin so you can have them help dump it where you want.
      2) If you own he bin, another solution to your heavy bin is to cut the bottom out of it and leave it open to the soil. This will give you access to your finished compost, will let out any trapped water, and will give worms and other soil organisms access to your compost pile. Many compost systems are designed with open bottoms. Depending on the material and construction style of your bin, it may be a little bit of work to cut the plastic. But this can be done with a Dremmel cutting tool or Sawsall. If all else fails find a handy neighbor to help.

  66. Roberta says

    I have 2 compost piles-one behind each of my barns. One is used to collect all decomposable items, while the other is used to “feed” my gardens(that one is already decomposed). When I run out of compost from that pile, the other is usually ready to start being used. I think the most important things are: to make sure there is no meat, dairy; to make sure you add enough water (it makes it decompose faster); and to make sure to turn it often-if you want to accelerate the decomposition process. I spread the compost into my gardens and turn the soil in the Fall and again in the early Spring. Between my homemade compost and the bees we keep, we have a great garden every year. Just be sure to wear gloves when touching compost as you spread the “black gold” into your gardens!

  67. Derek says

    A great way to start a pile is up are way they have a week when the garbage bags full of leaves and clippings are carted away free. I collect them on that day and bring them home. It is a win win proposition and they are BAGGED!!

  68. Sherry says

    We have an “earth machine” composter (black plastic covered cylindrical bin). I keep a small bucket with a lid in the cabinet under my kitchen sink, and fill it daily with veggie/fruit trimmings, coffee grounds, the those small decorative pumpkins at Halloween, and the like. That “stuff” combined with occassional yard clean-up scraps goes into the composter. I get lovely stuff out of the composter, and all that “waste” stays out of the landfill. Reduces my weekly trash load, and makes my heart feel good. :)

  69. says

    I pile everything in the chickens run, grass, small limb trimmings, kitchen scraps, any weeds or other plants pulled from around the yard. The chickens scratch around constantly turning the pile and eating anything they want then adding their droppings to the compost. I also add the wood shavings from the chicken coop. What amazes me is the number of worms in the pile, either the chickens don’t get them all or they only enter the pile when the chickens are in the coop for the night.

  70. Madeleine Dewar says

    I’ve been composting for over 50 years and tried all sorts of methods. Turning piles has definitely gotten too much for me now and I like Mike and just pile things up until a pile is full and then move on to the next pile. When that first pile is down to about Half size I usually figure its ready to use. I built a screening box with 2″ x 6″ s and hardware cloth that fits perfectly over my wheelbarrow that I screen everything through throwing the bigger stuff back into the pile. In the house I have a worm factory that gets most of the meal trimmings, coffee grounds and egg shells. Living in South Texas any compost pile heats up and finishes really fast.

    BTW, San Antonio, TX has a pilot compost recycle program and they take meat and dairy products as well as the usual compostable materials. My guess is that these piles are so huge that they heat up to really high temps for long periods and everything just completely breaks down totally.

  71. Charline Jolly says

    I have really heavy sticky adobe soil. I have been composting since the early ’70s and my flower beds are now the consistancy of chocolate cake! I added red wigglers to the coffee grounds and vege scraps, and they do any turning that gets done.

  72. Solana says

    How I do it: I keep a bag in the fridge where I put raw fruit peels and veggie trimmings, peels and rinds that can’t go to our chickens. When it gets full or I’m ready to take it out, I just dump it on the compost pile. We also dump all the leaves in the fall, grass clippings, and our chickens’ manure as it comes. I throw some small twigs and pine cones from around the yard as we clean it up too. We don’t have anything to chew it up. Once in a while I turn it with a shovel, and I end up with multiple piles because there’s so much of leaves and stuff.

    Why I compost: As much as I’d love to say it’s all for the environment, my biggest reason is money. I don’t want to pay for soil or compost (at least not too much) from the garden center. I also reduced our trash output enough from composting to get the smallest available trash bin for two families who share one, which saves about $10 per month compared to the next larger one. My secondary reason is I hate to see waste go into the landfill when it is useful in some way, and those scraps I compost are useful!

  73. says

    From Central Florida, use to wonder what do you do with the most unwanted item in Florida, namely highly acidic live oak leaves that neighbors do not want either and with bans on burning what do you do??? Answer compost them, and add the plentiful supplies of horse and cow manure found in the area. However, one does not have the green materials often times, so I buy granule nitrogen 30/0/0 and toss on piles just before rainy season perferably. When we can burn, we burn oak leaves in small quanities and through the cooled ashes (potash)on the compost pile. Sometimes we are lucky and get shreaded brush and trees limbs. We have pasture acreage and have very large accumulations of piled live oak leaves. Started this six years ago and have not turned; but, the bottom is like peat. We turned them just recently and plan to check ph levels, may have to add lime. Have such a large quamity I plan to spread it with a mnure spreader on 35 acre pasture. We new it would take several years to decompose because of the type materials used and dryness in Central Florida.

    Anyone have any suggestions?

  74. arnoldo solis says

    HI MIKE I DIG A HOLE IN THE GROUND ABOUT THREE FEET DOWN AND THREE FEET WIDE . I RAKE ANY DEBRIS THAT FALLS FROM TREES AND PLANTS INTO IT. I HAVE CHICKENS SO I FEED THEM ALL THE LEFT OVERS ,BUT I RAKE ALL THE CHICKEN POOP INTO THE HOLE.I SOMETIMES BUY A SACK OF TOP SOIL AND ADDED TO MY COMPOST.WHEN HUNTING SEASON IS ON I ADD IN THE GUTTED PARTS STOMACH, INTESTINES, ECT.I HAVE SEVERAL HOLES FILLED..

  75. says

    Mike, once again, good discussion. I have two piles. One in a bin for kitchen scraps. That one is for my potted garden plants and the results are amazing. The other one is in the vegetable garden. Like you, I just keep piling it up and run the tiller over it when I am using the machine anyway. I like your don’t get too hung up on it approach . Thanks again,

    Blair

    Someday, I would like to meet you

  76. Penny says

    Be sure to tarp over compost piles that are not in a bin. The compost needs some moisture, so uncover it for a few minutes of a rain or water it, but don’t leave the pile completely open to the elements. Many valuable nutrients will wash right through the pile into the ground below the pile.

    This might not be bad if you move your pile around and plant on that ground, but it is a waste of some really good stuff if you don’t.

  77. Doris says

    Here’s my hint for the composters. I use a tidy cats bucket with the aplit flap lid. Excellent to keep critters out of your kitchen compost until you get out to dump it. Thanks for everyone’s ideas. !!

  78. Emily says

    Love all the composting stories! I’ve been composting for seven years and it’s definitely become an obsession. I’m so jealous of those of you with cows, horses, chickens and lots of room! I live in the suburbs and have a lot of grass clippings and garden trimmings which take several months to compost fully. My seven 3′ x 3′ plastic bins, plus a 6′ x’3′ pile (plus several black plastic bags of fall leaves and trimmings slowly turning into leaf-mold) are all crammed behind my garage. The plastic bins have three removable tiers which can be moved aside and tossed occasionally. But I”m definitely of the “everything rots eventually” school of composting. Slow but steady. Where I differ from many if not all of you: besides all veggie and fruit scraps, tissues, and paper products, I also compost all meat, fish, and dairy scraps using the Bokashi method, which is an anerobic composting method using micro-organisms in a 5-gall. container that lives in my garage. There is no smell to attract critters because the bucket is tightly covered, and the fermented scraps are ready to be layered into the garden or my compost pile in about six weeks. The worms love them.

  79. Wayne Fitts says

    Mike I get chopped up wood from the people that cut the trees from under the power lines. Let it root for 4 too 5 years . I have a row that is 60 feet long that I am using off of now. What I am using is 5 years old. Rich dirt. I live on a farm so space is no problem.

  80. Lyle Planck says

    Put a rusty nail by your shrubs and rose bush as it oxides it gives the plants something IM not sure what can someone tell me

  81. Ed Antos says

    I have one black plastic bin from
    Lowes. All kitchen scraps along with limited garden waste goes there. It’s like a bottomless pit as waste breaks down and nice rich composted soil comes out through the bottom doors. My second bin is four wooden pallets arranged in a square using inexpensive metal fence stakes holding things together. Bigger volume plant trimmings and garden waste just goes in. Leaves, branches, stems, etc. This one is slower but it is working as I can see the lower material breaking down. I’m with Mike, no rocket science plus I’m cheap but these two bins work nicely. I do wonder if I could add guinea pig cage wood shavings complete with the two p’s into either bin. Any thoughts? I don’t grow veggies, just perennial plants and shrubs and ornamental trees.

  82. Dale says

    I started composting a few years ago. At first I faithfully turned the stuff once every few weeks. It smelled good, was warm and steamy, but the process seemed a little slow, probably because I was in a hurry for the compost. I bought some liquid that overcame the chlorine I used for watering the piles. Chlorine in city water kills the little microbes that breaks down the material. I had a pile in the shade and a pile in the sun. I can’t tell whether sun or shade works faster. I used cow manure to get the action started quicker, I layered a few inches of dead leaves, and then a layer of fresh grass or dried cow manure. I had a couple of BIG piles. I even used some old corrugated metal and made 4 ft tall containers about 3 ft in diameter to separate some of it thinking it might work faster. I covered the compost with tarps to shed some of the rainfall.
    After garden season was over the piles still hadn’t broken down completely. I got discouraged and stopped turning the piles. I think that maybe leaving the piles undisturbed helps it work faster. Now the 3 ft high piles I had are less than 18 inches high. I had no garden last year so I used none of the compost yet. I’ll use it in a garden I’m starting this year. Fishermen can find earthworms in the piles.

  83. Sabine "YoBubba" says

    I use a double drum composting bin I got several years ago for my birthday (yeah, my hubby is sooo romantic :)) I use it all year to fill up with grass clippings, flower “waste”, egg shells, coffee filters, and other veggie scrap. I also add my worm poop to it when I clean and move the worm shelves around. If I don’t have enough “brown layer” I pick up some steer manure from Home Depot and add that to the mix. The only things I don’t add are weeds and the “innards” of papaya. I love papaya, but the seeds survive and grow in the compost bin! One year I had little papaya trees come up in every flower pot! :) I try to remember to turn my compost at least once a week, but like Mike, I have a bad back and other more important things to do. And now I have an excuse: I don’t need to feel bad if I forget to turn it, because “It will rot. It doesn’t need my help. It will rot.” I like that. Thanks for the scientific input. You rock!

  84. Howard James says

    I am retired. In Maine I mow six acres of lawn and collect the clippings in a huge canvas bag that I tow behind my riding mower. My compost pile is eight or nine feet tall and ten or twelve feet wide. In the winter it is packed down with snow.

    Do I turn it? Not possible. But I dig near the bottom and use the dark, rick soil on the raised gardens I create. Right now I am learning about hugelkultur, which uses logs and branches beneath a layer of soil to extend the composting process year in and year out.

    A bed of granite is very near the surface on land, sometimes just inches beneath the earth, but the compost makes growing possible.

    I have spent eight winters now in Southwest Florida. I have several hundred slash pines, cabbage palms and live oaks on my three-and-a-half acres. I use my small chipper to grind up the palm fronds and fallen pine branches along with piles of pine needles to use as mulch. Weeds grow rapidly and tall here in summer. Pulled up by the handful they also turn into ideal compost. The surplus pine needles I rake up and let the summer rains and Florida heat do their work.

    In Southwest Florida twigs and branches rot quickly. The sandy soil in my yard is an ancient ocean bottom. My Florida compost turns it into a rich and arable growing medium.

  85. Bil Ward says

    I live in Bear Country. No, not Disneyland, Lake Tahoe. That means any food waste cannot be composted outdoors. Any vegetative food wastes, I feed to my worms. I have two wormeries in my garage, which are made of plastic tubs. The main tub has holes in the bottom for drainage and in the top for ventilation. The bottom tub is a catch basin for leachate. In the spring I seperate out most of the worms from the compost, spread it out on my lawn (some of the worms and their cocooons are “relocated” as well). I now have worms in my yard to do some nice aeration and soil amendment in the wild. If you are wondering about the smell, there is none to speak of, because I do not compost any animal products (other than eggshells), which can putrify and cause a smell.

    I also have a pile in the back yard for other organic materials such as lawn clippings, leaves, sawdust, etc. I threw some of my vermicompost in the pile and the little wigglers are thriving here as well. So, I have thousands of composting partners. The best part is, none of them draw a salary. They’re happy with all you can eat.

  86. Celli says

    I use several composting systems. I have a rotating drum composter that I use for table scraps and “brown” material. A square composter for yard waste and leaves. In the fall I put leaves on my raised beds for the winter and then move the excess in the spring into an area to create a lasagna bed.

  87. says

    Manure is a “Green”, not a “Brown” for composting. However, when you toss weeds and plants onto the pile, they quickly dry out and then become a “Brown”, not a “Green” as you would think. So basically if you mix manure (or kitchen scraps) and clippings/weedings/leaves then you get compost after a few months. Also you may have to add water if it doesn’t rain, or cover it if it rains a lot. Flooding the compost will stop the process, and drying it out completely will also stop it. But don’t worry about doing it wrong, the only risk is it will just take longer to compost.

    This works best in piles between 3 and 10 feet wide/tall. After 10-ish feet, the bottom will stop composting. Or you can use the tall black plastic composters for small amounts. And worms and other insects are good, but they will only inhabit the edges since the middle of the pile is too hot. Same for mice and small snakes that may be attracted to the warmth of the pile and the insect population (or food scraps) and will make a nest.

    Most horse ranches give away manure for free if you are willing to get it yourself. Often the manure is mixed with with wood shavings, straw, or uneaten hay, and may already be composting. This is all good for you and your compost. Horse facilities usually have to pay to have manure hauled off. However, horse ranches are usually a business or a busy place and they may not want to bother with inexperienced people poking around the poop piles taking small amounts of manure, so you have to make sure you are not any trouble and get in, get loaded, and get out. If you have a pickup truck, often the ranch will load your truck for free with a tractor. If you are just filling buckets, then you do it yourself.

    Compost is usually weed free so its great as a top layer on your soil to mulch and keep weeds down. If you use overhead watering (or it rains) then the nutrients will soak into the soil. You can also grow most plants directly in compost (root crops are the main exception), and most seedlings grow great in compost as long as its not too clumpy. I grew 200 tomato seedling in sifted compost filled 4-inch pots this year, and other seedlings, and all are doing great.

  88. Cheryl says

    I live in a condo and am probably not supposed to have a composter behind my unit, but I got tired of having to put perfectly good kitchen scraps into the trash, so I bought a big black plastic compost bin at a discount store. Got an 89 dollar item for 39 bucks, and that made me happy! I have since been filling it up with leaves that have been accumulating along the back wall throughout the fall and winter, and adding kitchen scraps like vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, etc. We always had a compost pile out behind the garage when I was a kid, so I just can’t stand NOT composting! Now I am happily throwing anything in there that I can find – weeds I pull from between the perennials, my neighbor’s leaves, and when the guys come to mow the lawn, I plan to get some grass clippings to add to my bin. I have a small flower garden in front, and I grow some vegetables in containers. When I have some compost, I will spread it among the flowers and veggies. Can’t wait!

  89. Miguel says

    I’m a retired equestrian master. with two mares eating grass hay and producing a good amount of manure, mixed with hay and urine, which is an ideal composting mixture. We collect it with a york rake and a front loader and allow to compost in a dedicated field area for about a year or more. After this, we use it for everything from soil amendment, top dress, bottom of plantings and even direct planting on it with just an inch or so of top dress seeding soil. It is the safest, best and cheapest form of fertilizer I’ve used, plus I’m an organic grower and all is done in plain sight for customers to view.

  90. Happy House says

    Hi Mike,
    We teach alternative gardening techniques.We like to be lazy and keep everything simplified.Been there and done the formula based composting as well as getting overly technical when need be for those who have to have that type of knowledge,, there is alway one who has to over think it LOL…
    At the Happy House we basically give everything to the chickens..We clean out there pen which we use wood chips in…That in turn sits until we need it in a big pile…Now we garden with straw bales so basically we are composting on the spot,,That hot chicken crap goes onto the bales as a high nitro to start the break down process needed for planting..Extra gets tossed into a pile mixed with what ever is still sitting from previous cleanings..
    The straw bales them selves eventually break down into a very rich soil..We plant them for basically 3 years then mix the entire garden in and have a very large pile of composted soil that is very nice to work with since our native soil here in Montana tends to be higher alkaline..We try to explain what goes into that compost is a way to adjust our soils or better yet make your own so your not working with the clay based alkaline native soil…
    We also enjoy using things like humic acid in our composted soil,,Which we make with out work by gathering leaves from others already bagged,, poke a few holes in the bottom of the bags toss those somewhere we do not see them for a couple of years then go back and have beautiful leaf mold filled with worms which do the break down for us by coming in through the holes in the bags..
    We also suggest that others learn a bit about herbs to toss into compost to help speed it up and make a great compost for teas, which stinging nettles, comfrey, yarrow etc make some great starters for the piles to kick in break down…These add some great trace minerals as well..Hmmm and lets not forget in our cold areas using hot manures and composting in the greenhouses and hot beds for added heat that is free of charge,, bonus to this one is also being able to use hot items like fresh manures and alfalfa based hay…Oh yea we did not say it smells good in the greenhouse…hahaha,, well unless your a compost fanatic..
    LOL and the dog and cat poo, a great way to handle this is similar to what we do out here with sawdust toilets to compost human manure.Have a spot out of sight you can dig a pit or not but the key is each time you add to it is to cover it with sawdust as well as adding things like artemisia which helps to kill worms and such… old timers will also tell you it is a great place to dump their own urine to keep a high nitro going and speed break up..Which oh yea leads to some of the other additives that many older gardeners add to their composting area…LOL,,Not in our gardens because we donate so much to others but we know many who use this in their personal composts and to fertilize their lawns,,

  91. Happy House says

    Oops that last paragraph is talking about the types of worms produced in the animal which come out in their manure,, Not the worms that come in to assist with break down..

  92. Rick Lutes says

    We do have a bin…8′x12′x27″. The walls are recycled corrugated steel roofing. Everything of yard waste and kitchen waste either goes in there or to the chickens. However, our entire yard has become a composting project. Using pallet slips from a local preparedness canning operation, we are covering everywhere not covered by buildings, concrete, or grass with a cardboard weed barrier, then with several inches of wood chips and old hay. We have a neighbor who gives us all the ground-up trees from his landscaping business, and a producer of pelletized alfalfa hay for cattle feed. They give us their spoilage. We began last spring and had a very productive garden! This layer of organic material moderates the temperature, makes awesome use of rain (right now…snow melt), reduces the need for chemical fertilizers (as the top layer composts, it feeds the dirt beneath), and makes weed control easy!

  93. Maxine watts says

    When I was in school they still had an agriculture unit in grade school. There we learned the language of farming. The approved method of improving the soil was called sheet composting where you just spread everything out where you wanted to use it and plowed it under. At 90 years I have to talk my son into doing most of the outside work. He calls it nagging. He spreads the lawn clippings among the Lillie’s until the soil finally gets dry enough to till.
    Our side yard has sprouted a lot of weeds. If we use a broad leaf weed killer will there be residue enough in the clippings to injure plants?

  94. BettyKay says

    I made a 6 foot ring out of 4ft tall wire I bought at the local co-op. Placed it in a corner of the yard out of the way and just started throwing stuff in – leaves, grass clippings, kitchen waste, etc. I never turn itbut I do try to make sure I get some brown and some green layers. When I’m short on brown, I’ll buy a bale of straw. It will last all year, using it little at a time. I cut out an opening at the bottom of my wire ring ground level big enough to get my small shovel through to scoop out the “black gold”! Works like a charm for me!.

  95. charley says

    I enjoy composting immensely so I generally have two largeish piles going at one time, neither of which has any kind of wooden structure around it, just use a large open space. One is a longer term ‘rough’ pile, that might include sawdust and ‘woody’ stuff, and breaks down slowly, the other contains materials that break down very quickly. If you garden a lot you’ll generally have all kinds of waste around, so with a little planning you can alternate the various types of waste to give some structure to your piles. You must maintain a sufficient balance of air, water and compostable material to get good results.

    Weeds occupy a lower layer in my piles usually, with other leafy grass clippings or even leaves added to that. Anything works, such as all the leaves of a melon, squash, or bean crop. And I often would haul in large trucks of leaves from the local leaf dump, or even a load of mushroom compost from the local plant.

    Watering layers every so often will keep the piles working, and the results of your labors will be seen in the steamy vapor rising constantly from them. When the vapors cease, it means it’s time to turn them, and even add a little more water if it’s dried out. The piles will gradually change to an earthy brown color and diminish in size as they burn up, but since this is not a completely uniform process, turning the piles and even adding in soil amendments at that time is helpful.

    When all steaming and color changes have finished it means the compost has cooled enough to use, and it also means it’s time to start more piles!

    Happy Composting……..

  96. Susan says

    Sory if you’ve already answered this question, but what are your views on adding used paper products (kleenex, paper towels, paper plates, and napkins) to the compost pile? Does it matter how they were processd?

  97. says

    Such a cool discussion. I probably have the smallest compost device of all as my yard is about the size of a postage stamp, but I don’t like to buy potting soil when I can make it, and home-made is just so much better. I just use a little cart with wheels (so I can leave it under the overhang when it rains and wheel it out in the sun once in a while.) It has a rounded bottom and high back holds about 5 gallons. I just lay it down on the back and then yank it upright every now and then to “turn” and put in yard trimmings, kitchen scraps, shredded paper waste, and lots of used soil that needs refreshing. Neighbors drop theirs off in pots that I refill with the good stuff and new plants and give back to them….or to somebody else.

    My favorite things are how fast things compost in the desert, and the surprise “volunteers” that come up….yeah, and the smell of good compost!

  98. Cliff Keeler says

    House is in a residential area roofed over with a canopy from very tall – as in gigantic – white oaks. Trees that probably exceed 150-years of age. In the fall, the load of leaves they drop is mind boggling. If you don’t rake or leaf blow into piles and either haul them off or burn them, they will kill every blade of grass. Saying they pile up to ankle deep is very conservative.

    Oak leaves are loaded with tannic acid. That needs to be leached off as much as possible. My compost bin is cedar logs drilled and set over rebar corner posts that rest on four concrete blocks – one at each corner. The front of the compost bin does not have logs on the bottom three rungs like the other three sides do. Instead, three landscape timbers rest across the front without being secured to the rebar corners. They can be slid in and out at will.

    The bin is scheduled to finish at approx. 12-logs high on all sides excluding the three left off the first three courses of the front. All new leaves are dumped over the top rail. The compost itself is taken off the bottom and accessed by sliding the three landscape timbers on the bottom rows of the front out of the way. A mantis tiller could be used to eat into the bottom layers and then rake out the result to go on the garden areas.

    Before filling the compost bin, I wired a number of scrap ends from cutting the poles for the bin in a tepee shaped cone and placed it in the center of the interior of the bin. This permits air-flow to penetrate the mass of leaves that eventually fill it. Rain water also penetrates and helps the decomposition process all the way to the bottom layers. Kitchen waste is also thrown into this “orifice.”

    This process recycles much of the organic waste that virtually chokes this neighborhood in the fall. It’s free for the expense of a liberal application of sweat equity and pays one back with valuable organiccaly grown tablefare for your family’s health betterment.

  99. Kim says

    I compost in a couple different ways. The main thing I do is what I call pre-compost. Anything I think my 3 chickens will eat gets thrown into their pen. They kick it pick it and eat it and when I move them the next day, I rake it up and put what is left along with the birds droppings into the composter.

    This year I am also trying a new method to help promote more worms. I took an 18″ length of 6″ PVC pipe and drilled a bunch of holes on one end. I am going to bury that end into the soil in the middle of each of my raised beds. I will put food scraps and the smaller items I rake up from the chicken pens and put it down the tube. I will then cap it off to keep bugs and stuff out. I am hoping this will help build up the worm population and in turn the worm droppings will help the vegetables.

  100. Eric says

    Been composting about six-seven years. Started with a 5 ft square bin made from old fencing 3′ high. All kitchen compostables & clean yard waste goes in, plus aged horse manure from my brother’s horses, dirt from old potted plants, etc. Our apartment’s lawn service gives us bags of lawn cuttings from all over, and we rake up our own leaves.Added two wire bins 4′ dia x 4′ high for just extra leaves, but have since added other stuff in. I turn it both with a garden fork & my Mantis Tiller, maintain adequate water levels. Get a good hot mix when there’s plenty of grass clippings, which helps kill weed seeds, but drives the worms out. Once cooler, the red worms work on kitchen scraps & the earthworms return. We use it each year in our raised beds for various berries & vegetables.
    Black dirt is good stuff, but the best is when you get a colloidal mix that’s almost like plastic. That sticks with the roots and doesn’t wash away, and feeds the crop roots better than anything commercial. This year we’ll be charting progress with a compost thermometer, recording everything on my laptop, along with charts on where every plant is placed, when it starts & is transplanted outside, how much it grows each week, etc. Going to tie in with photos at each stage of development.

  101. alice says

    you allmake it so complicated. everything goes in a pile. brown leaves, green weeds, trimmings, old veggies and fruits. once a year it gets moved. top stuff ends up on the bottom. takes 2 or 3 years. sometimes add compost maker.

    use bucket loader to move it and to take to garden beds. 4 acres of stuff piles up. have 4 piles going right now.

  102. Karlie Berry says

    I am a very lazy composter/gardener. I let the chickens do the work for me. We have rabbits and their cage pans have soft wood shavings in them. At cleaning time it is all dumped in a pile at the edge of the yard and the chickens scratch and dig in it. Once in awhile I will go out and rake back into a pile. The chickens eat any weed seeds that may sprout, add their own fertilizer to the mix and keep everything stirred. Rabbit manure is a safe to use immediately manure so sometimes after the cleaning day and things have dried out a bit I can use immediately to fill my raised garden beds and plant. The chicken house cleaning goes out into the field in a big pile. I noticed this past late winter/early spring that the pile was showing above the snow and when it snowed it did not accumulate on the pile. Guess it must be pretty warm in there!

  103. Karlie Berry says

    Forgot the reason for all of the compost. I have raised garden beds because the only thing that grows well around here is the rocks!

  104. curt says

    well at the risk of injecting a little humour amongst all these great dieas, at least if you use old irs forms to layer in the bottom of your raised bed it should lessen the amount of manure one needs to use,……

  105. Do says

    I have two piles going at the same time. And…I’m lazy so I don’t turn anything. I throw lawn clippings and kitchen scraps in one pile, and pull (mostly) finished compost out of the other one. When the “finished” pile is empty I start that one with new materials and start “harvesting” the second pile. It takes about 3 – 4 months between piles.

  106. Anonymous says

    I dig a hole in the ground in the spring. I put in last year’s leaves, new grass clippings and vegetable wash from the kitchen. The next spring I plant my tomato plants in it inside a wire cage. LOTS less work the bagging and dragging stuff to the street and it works wonders with growning tomatos in the yard without using a rototiller. Lazy city dwelling way of doing things.

  107. Anonymous says

    I dig a hole in the ground about 36″ wide and 2 feet or so deep. I add last years leaves and this years grass and kitchen waste. I add to it all summer and fall. The next spring I put a wire cage around it and plant my tomatos in it. GREAT easy way to grow maters and you save the backbreaking work of bagging and draggin yard waste to the street too.

  108. Charlotte says

    When people ask me how I grow such beautiful plants and flowers, I tell them I feed them garbage. Srange looks! I also grow elephant garlic with my other bulbs and flowers. Sometimes they get as tall as I am (5 ft.) and the globes when in bloom are baseball to softball size. People often ask what kind of flowers they are.

  109. Pat says

    I have a tumbler and a vermiculture composter. We keep scraps in the kitchen in a countertop composter and dump them in the tumbler or feed the worms regularly. My grandsons love to turn the composter. In the fall we collect the leaves in barrels for brown material to add to the composter in the spring and fall. Some will already be composted by Spring. I use it on perennials and in the vegetable garden for natural fertilizer.

  110. Vicky says

    Good one Curt thanks for the laugh. I tried shredded paper but it didn’t break down very fast and I like the natural look better. I just dump what ever I have and let the worms and time compost. I don’t turn or even remember to water mine, I just left the lid off lately so the rain could get in. If I put in fruit stuff I throw dirt on top to keep the fruit flies down. I have a nice big plastic box shaped composter and one of the igloo looking black ones. I threw in some red wigglers a couple years ago and I have more worms than compost. I compost cause I don’t use any poo except worm in my edible gardens! Never put any meat eating critter’s poo in your compost!!!!! Maybe if you know for a fact that your dog is a veggetarian but wellllll not me.

  111. Ellie says

    My husband goes out of his way to get horse manure, Some people pay him to take it away, which gives him an excuse to have his 12′ dump trailer. He brings it home puts it in a pile with all the trimmings and mowing and household compostables and tends it like a garden. He waters it, he takes it’s temperature, he turns it (and excuse to have his little Kabota tractor). We have even gone to a seminar put on by our local professional compost guru. It goes in our gardens, it works! few weeds, lots of vegies, hours of entertainment for my guy!lol

  112. Connie says

    Many people worry about odors when they contemplate composting. Items with more nitrogen than carbon will get an ammonia smell if they don’t have enough carbon-rich items to balance it out. Grasses and fruits tend to be nitrogen-rich. Luckily, the balance is easy to fix with any high carbon source: tree and shrub leaves, shredded paper (including office paper, newspaper, junk mail, paper bags and magazines), paperboard (including cereal boxes, tissue boxes and cores from paper towel rolls) and cardboard. The smaller you can get the pieces, the better, but even large pieces will eventually decompose. Your pile should always have more carbon-rich sources than nitrogen-rich sources for good odor management.

  113. Digger Drach says

    Compost is “gardnening gold”. Why would we ever seal up such treasure as vegetable matter in our very finite landfill space?
    Composting is like walking barefoot…you’ll feel closer to nature because you become part of it’s processes.

  114. Carole says

    I have a wire box, divided in the middle with a piece of board, it is about 3 feet by 4 feet. All of my non protein, table scraps and and vegetable peels, egg shells, all go into the compost bin. Plus in the fall I add leaves that have been ground up. (my leaf blower/vac does the shredding) I add scraps on one side of compost pile, cover with a thin layer of dirt , I do this till the one side is heaping full, then I start on the other side. putting in scraps, covering with dirt from the full side, that way it is easy to take care of, all the turning is done in small increments and at my age that is important. by the time the both sides are of equal height, the dirt in the first box is good to go. What ever my need for dirt is. Simple, easy, no smell, no fuss or muss.

  115. Richard says

    We have clay here so I have raised beds and use my compost for mulching and amending the soil in the beds. I use to get tons of leaves in the fall from my father, In the fall I would cover my 20x 5ft. asparagus bed after cutting the fronds of the asparagus, the leaves make great coverage for keeping weeds to a minimum. In the spring I would put leaves and saw dust and shredded paper in the big green tumbler and when the lawn got mowed I would add grass clipping. even with turning and adding dirt occasionally the results were not black gold, more like black rocks but it still went on the beds and was tilled in. I would use the extra grass clipping to mulch around the tomatoes, peepers cabbage and down between the rows in the beds. It was great less watering and less weeding. Again in the fall it all got tilled in. My garden produces tons and I use very little fertilizer.

  116. Viki says

    There is a long term construction project near my house that requires regular land clearing. For years they have been grinding up branches and leaves. They have huge piles of it. They do nothing to it but pile it up, and it composts. I have an “in” with the manager and he gives me all the compost I want. I have been hauling a pick-up load in every day, 5 days a week for over 2 years now. My vegetable garden grows like crazy. Some of the first loads I hauled in seem to have turned into soil already. I use it for mulch as well. Before I am done I think I will have my whole 5 acres covered. It is labor intensive shoveling it off the truck, but they load it for me.

  117. Steven Sulikowski says

    2 more suggestions

    Use natures decomposers – Oyster mushrooms & King Oyster mushrooms – buy them at the grocery store break them apart a little & add them to the straw part of your pile too, moisten with water.

    Active baker’s yeast & diatomaceous earth (as crawling insect killer version) it’s pure silica dioxide & will increase earthworm populations within the compost as a source of food & will make the compost more fertile for plants. make sure to moisten & spray 2 ounces of organic apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 gallons of water to moisten – has enzyme mother culture & trace minerals to stoke the activity in the pile up.

    try it : )

  118. Genaro says

    I designate a bed in my garden to be a compost bed, every winter I move the compost pile to a new bed and plant fava beans to fix the nitro. Then you have a super garden bed ready to produce the best veggies in town. And then I eat with my family!!!

  119. Judi says

    Hi Mike, I guess that you could call my technique KISS or just plain Lazy. I have a large trash can that I keep at the edge of my porch, half in, half out from under the roof. I shot a bunch of holes into it for drainage. Simply put, I empty my veggie scraps, egg shells & coffee grounds into it from when I’m cooking. Also, I have a woodstove inside my house & will occassionally throw in some of the finer ash. Then of course there’s the trimmings from around the garden & the odd pile of horse manure that one of the horses was so kind as to leave within easy reach of the compost can. I’d say once a week (or when I think of it) I’ll give it a stir with a pitchfork or a hoe, just to break things up a bit.

    I am a single mom of 1 so a complex formula (or too much effort) is just not going to fit in.

    This Spring was the first I’ve used my oh so complicated mixture & my plants went insane! All I did was to pour it out on a concrete slab to let it dry some (we had a week of rain) then stirred up a ring around the plants & turned in a spade’s worth of the compost. I also used it in the soil of some of my new plantings & they seemed very happy with the thought. :)

    My next attempt at a fertilizer/ feed for my plants is to gather up some of the manure that the horses are so considerate to crate & suspend it in a cloth sack, in a barrel of rainwater… make some Farmer’s Tea.

  120. Judy Henderson says

    I have 2 compost bins one on one side of the garden and the other on the other side! One com poster is one you turn! The other is a stable one! If you take out of the soil you have to put back in! I do not buy fertilizer! In the winter in Montana I research what I can put in. No, I never have tested my soil for anything! I have grown some wonderful tomatoes! I empty my bins often! anytime I turn-up the soil! My little garden partner (4 year old grandson) and I were adding stuff to the compost bin the other day. ” Grandma, this is going to smell when we open the lid!” I said I hope so! Thanks Mike for you letters! I love it!

  121. Rebecca says

    I started organic gardening because I don’t want to eat poisoned food. I started composting because I didn’t trust the ‘soil enhancers’ I could get at the home centers. Also, my sister lost her whole back yard to Imprelis contaminated top soil. I am using 3 trash cans. Starting w/ some of my yard dirt I threw in leaves & plant trimmings – no weeds. All fruit & veggie trimmings, coffee grounds, egg shells, shredded junk mail, no meats or grease. I have friends w/ chickens & goats, so when then clean the pens & coops, I get the manure & that goes in. I occasionally add some water. Started out trying to turn it but eventually couldn’t get more than 1/2 way down & still lift it for turning. Can #1 is beautiful & ready to use. #2 is almost there & #3 was started just a few weeks ago. Finally found a local source for red wrigglers & pick them up next week. That should help speed things up. Mike’s right. It will all rot eventually, it is just how fast you want it to happen.

  122. Laura says

    Mike,I have always composted but a friend, who also has always composted, tells me that they were visited by the EPA, making the rounds of farms in the area, to receive instruction on manure management. Instead, the EPA folks got an education themselves! My friend takes in unwanted alpaca, llama, and horses. Often these are very aged but she cares for them, giving them a home in their latter years. Most of them stay with her until death do they part. She also boards horses, and thus they have always had a manure pile built on a concrete pad, and removed seasonally to the hay fields to grow better hay for the farm’s hay eating population. From time to time, every farm loses an animal, and used to be the farmer could call a dead animal removal service. Times have changed, and farmers are now instructed to deal with dead animal disposal in other ways, among them, composting! Just thought you’d appreciate the view from the other side of the fence!
    For our purposes, (back when I was a busy young mom with four small tots), we piled the stall cleanings in trenches in our gardens, and every spring we turn them over into the beds, digging ‘fresh’ trenches. Lots of work, and now with injuries limiting that kind of work, we pile, then later remove to the fields or gardens after it is aged. The barnyard fowl ‘turn’ it for us. ;^/)
    When I first began gardening here 26 years ago, the soil was hard packed red clay. Now my gardens are abundant in growth and has much darker, more loamy soils. My friend Mary has mostly slate under her farm, but over the years she too has built up some good garden soils. Composting is the way to a more sustainable lifestyle, in the true sense, not necessarily the Agenda 13- correct sense.
    Thanks for all the informative and encouraging newsletters!

  123. Tatiana says

    Hi Mike,

    I compost four different ways. The first is we were fortunate enough to get a $500 value tumbler composter for free. This is where I put all the most of the more rotten kitchen scraps. Secondly, I have chickens (not probably what most people would think of composters)these are the most efficient composters I own! They stay in a coop we move every couple of weeks all around the garden. The chickens get all my weeds and higher quality kitchen scraps :) The third and fourth ways are kind of similar in that I use red wiggler worms, these are more experimental and I haven’t really mastered it all yet… one is just a worm bin, this makes so much higher quality dirt that it is worth the added work. The second is a set of worm bins that sit underneath my rabbit cages. These worms are there to keep the smell down and speed up the “well-rotted manure” process. All of these composts I add a little sand to towards the end when I am ready to use it.
    As you can probably tell I like forms of composting, the soil we have is a boggy clay, so making my own soil amendment is a lot cheaper than trying to fix our whole garden with topsoil. I also get the best results with planting cuttings in a homemade compost. Plus composting is a great way to get rid of weeds, old foods, and of course junk mail!

  124. Joyce says

    Hi Mike; Why I compost, IT FREE, I save my kitchen scraps specially egg shells,coffee grounds, any green leafy veg. In fall I save all leaves, sticks but most just have leaves sooooooooo I go the water treatment plant for my manure. LOL sometimes have vol tomatoes or cukes but their on dinner table to. My Grany all ways put her tomatoes where the old outhouse use to be. Most all my friends send me Red worms for gifts they go in for good measure. All I have is 4, 30gal cans but they have worked for the last 15 yr’s. I only get about 4 to 6 gal of manure it last all winter. Oh yes the newspaper to give the worms something else to eat.

  125. Linda says

    Hey Mike,
    I have a huge log that is laying at the edge trees where the bluff meets the yard. I just throw everything back behind there. No one sees it and I get rid of kitchen scraps that way. The only other things I throw on there are the sticks I pick up after a rain and the clippings from plants in the fall and spring. I don’t bother to turn it. Like you said, it all rots eventually. :)

  126. john says

    Ok, here’s my take. Throw all that nitrogen/carbon, green/brown stuff away – as long as you stay away from seedy weeds or diseased plants, all composting is good and it works! I take my kitchen scraps to the garden once a week and bury them. I bury back in the waste from vegetables I harvest. In the fall I load up the garden with 4-6 inches of leaves and in spring/summer I pile up as much grass clippings into the walkways that I can get. Eight years ago my soil was heavy, wet clay. Now it’s rich, full of life and incredibly productive. All it costs me a little sweat now and then.

  127. Fred says

    I do compost. I bought a 10 ft length of 4 ft wire mesh in 1″ x 2″ squares. Then I rolled it, overlapped it and tied the edges with some wire. I now have a 3 ft diameter by 4 ft high compost bin. This was 5 years ago. I throw yard and table waste into it plus garden trimmings. When it was was full, I added another. Turning is easy, I just lift the wire mesh, set it beside the pile and shovel the freed pile back into the bin. I heard that the ideal was 3 bins and by the time it went through the 3rd bin it was ready to add to the soil. I’ve never filled the first two, so I didn’t add the 3rd one. I turned a few times, but now I’m more patient than energetic, so I just wait!
    I never add manure because I don’t have any,….well I don’t recycle it. I do have a problem with weed seeds here in Florida there are many, They don’t die in the compost process because I don’t add manure, water and turn, turn turn, but I still get some great soil.

  128. clyde w holmes says

    mike i have enjoyed reding all this about composting and
    i am sure all of it works because that is about what i allways did but now that i am 86 yrs old an have been
    disabled since 1996 i have a good neighbor in the cattle
    business when i need some compost i just let him know an
    in a day or two he comes with his bucket loader full and
    he knows where i keep it ( no charge )so that is my composting good luck to all compostng an may god bless you
    all

  129. Mary says

    Have composted for years & until 3 years ago when my horse friend passed away went & got a couple of truck loads of horse manure to layer with. I met him when he advertised on a radio talk show (the have for sale,or looking for type of program} that you could have the manure for free if you hauled away. I have a new number now and should check into it. Not familiar with roads in area but guess I could get out the old map & find my way. Though at 73 not sure if I can load as good as I used to. I also used to pick up leaves & grass clippings from curbs, now that has slowed down to just the neighbors where I can go with my wheelbarrow. Why do people use those big bags that must weigh 50 lbs when full???? makes it hard to lift into truck.

  130. Lori says

    I just have a bottomless bin my hubby made me and when I have kitchen waste in it goes yard waste in it goes if I think it is getting to much green compost I add a shovel full of dirt. I do have an old pitchfork I move it around with once in a while but I do not turn it regularly I get a lot of worms in it and my son in law
    digs through for fishing so it kinda’ gets turned then also
    In the spring we move the bin over and fork over the top waste that has not composted and use the rest If I am in the mood I might even screen it before putting it in my garden.

  131. Mary says

    Oh by the way if you live near a Starbucks they will give away their coffee grounds. I least my neice got some from the Port Arthur, TX. one

  132. Jim Talley says

    I use grass clippings and dead leaves. I spice it up with some manure from the university’s ag center and keep the pile damp, but not wet. Nature is surprising at how
    well she gets things to rot. I use the compost over her three flower beds to help build up the mostly clay soil.
    You can alo use gypsum or lime to break up clay soils, but compost does that and builds the soil too.

  133. says

    Mike,
    I take the old, lazy man’s way. 3, 4X6 bins with backs of galvanized, used roofing. Divided by old clay tiles stacked, dry, in 4′ X 4′ walls. Started 1st spring in south bin by dumping lawn trimmings/leaves in and leaving them undisturbed. 1st fall, when leaves started turning, moved contents into 2d bin and piled 1st year’s bounty into second bin, layered with a few fallen leaves (mostly oak)and then filled 1st bin with lawn mower mulched leaves. 3rd year moved everything one bin over and started over in #1. Usually at the end of year three, bin 3 is ready for use and if I have more compost than uses, relatives will always take it. I also have two 55 gal plastic barrels rigged as tumblers with a door in a side of each and a 2″ pipe supporting them. These are used for kitchen compost and the 2d year’s is usually added to the 1st years compost bin. Usually have lots of compost for relatives and recycling from bin 3 to the other bins empties out the compost each fall before I move the contents down the line. It is slow but only takes one day a year to move all the compost down the line. P.S. I’ve also got a 6′X15′ brick wall that I have put up a small galvanized wall forming a 3′ deep X 4′wide X 15′ long that I put most of my oak leaves into every fall. These are usually incorporated in the spring compost rotation. I probably give away as much compost as I use.

    Gary R.

  134. Rod H says

    Now I compost using one of those big green compost tumblers. I used to have bins made from old pallets. That gave me two bins to turn it from and to plus one to sift it into when it was done. To keep it neat I used 1″x6″ boards slid into a slot with 1″ black plastic pipe with holes drilled to hlp ventilate it. I would try to turn it every other day. I would use old hay from where it had fallen by the stacks, straw, weeds, them mow it and bag it with the grass then use it mainly on my raised beds. Now I usually rake up the maple leaves in the fall, mow them, bag ‘em and put them in my garage untill spring. I then scatter them out on the backyard, mow them and whatever clippins up andput that in the tumbler. I would prefer the pallet method but space (and lack of motivation) do not allow. The finished compost is put on the flower beds.
    The biggest reason I compost is to recycle instead of just tossing it all, plus I just kinda like the idea.

  135. R Holt says

    I use to work for my grandmother in the summers. She composted, everything, left over food scrapes, even the tin cans, all buried behind the barn next to her garden. Her soil was black. Not brown, Black. The earthworms were thick. One dig with the shovel and you had enough worms for all day of fishing. She fished and caught a string of catfish for supper with the worms. She would walk four blocks to the lake and back carrying the poles and fish back home. I compost now, everything in one pile, green, brown, food stuff. I don’t worry about turning anything just keep piling it on. It is full of worms, the shovel sinks in about a foot with no trouble and plenty of extra rich soil for those spots that need a little extra soil.

  136. says

    Hi everyone here is my 2 cents on composting. “Composting is about growing your own dirt” Cannot get any cheaper that. Clean Soil and Clean Seeds is what makes the world around.

  137. John Duffy says

    I use redworms to do most of my composting. They take most of the work out of the process and leave a beautiful vermicompost that is the consistency of coffee grounds when it’s finished

  138. says

    See facebook post with photo per this link

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=607533552608212&set=a.104561332905439.10059.100000547194718&type=1

    I compost for the obvious reason, that being topsoil is always either growing or depleting,the “middle ground” being as narrow as a razor’s edge. I choose to grow it. Also, better the organic matter be returned to use in the environment as close to source as possible, reducing the carbon footprint of it’s transport to use (I E. my muscles burning the food I eat). As shown the fall leaves on my lawn get mowed down to the soil where the fall. The leaves I save for bed fill and “brown” for the compost being from neighbors’ yards. The “green” for the compost is from various sources from my yard such as trimmings of the 100′ of elm hedge and other plant waste, some from the kitchen. Also I get “green” from neighbors’ grass clippings as well as the rare ocassions when I don’t mulcher mow my own lawn and don’t spread the clippings from the latter as bed mulch. I also add almost all of the coffee grounds from the kitchen and frequently misc peels etc as well as document shreddings
    Any compost left from emptying the Soilsavers to relocate them in the spring and not used on beds right away goes into the decades old wire frame bin to the right of the one with the fall leaves in it. I add the “brown and green” coming available after the Soilsavers are full up to it as well. I use a plunge turning tool semi-regularly on any of the 3 bins still “cooking” and occasionally on cold ones.
    William von Rentzell

  139. says

    I,m a pallet guy for the bin. And rather than turning my compost, I roll mine. The bin base is three large pallets laid on the ground- but not necessary. Two opposing side walls are three long as well. The ends are single pallet and removable. Inside of the bin enclosure, I pile up on one side and then semi annually or not, I’ll push it over to the other side…sort of.

  140. says

    I pile up leaves and small sticks in a spot in the back yard, usually in a low spot. I don’t turn the pile because it will rot anyway. If I don’t use the compost, it helps fill in the low spot. May be a waste of compost, but that is how I handle it.

  141. Pam says

    My chickens get most of my kitchen scraps, but anything they shouldn’t have gets layered into a drum from an old washer, topped by a scoop of leaves to keep down flies and add the brown carbon.

    When I have collected a boxful of junkmail and other cardboard and paper trash, I cover a strip down my driveway with it, then top it off with chicken manure and a load of municipal compost sold at our landfill for just $12 a truckload. Woodchips, leaves, pine needles cleaned from the chickencoop are sometimes added. After a few weeks, the bottom layer of junk mail gets mushy and you can chop through with a mattock to plant flowers. So far, this has provided a way to gradually add to my goal of a flower garden down the side of my long drive with few weeds or grass. Plus, it saves having to shred all that paper with personal info. Anyone looking for my s.s. # will have one messy time.

  142. Anne says

    Northern Illinois, heavy clay soil. I love to compost–it’s a win/win situation. Helps the environment, reduces waste, improves my soil, and makes the local worm population very happy. I have the same venerable old oak trees in my yard that Cliff K has. Weather permitting in the late fall I chop them up with the mower to reduce the volume and then sweep them up and either put them in chicken wire bins or spread them on my flower beds. Those thick old oak leaves with all that tannin can take a long time to break down. In addition to the bins I have two plastic garbage containers with holes drilled in them, and a compost tumbler. In these I put all my kitchen scraps–old veggies and fruits, trimmings, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, husband’s leftover beer, moldy bread-everything but meat, dairy and oils. Also weeds, grass trimmings, leaves (excluding the poison ivy)
    trying to get some kind of a balance of green and brown. Also last fall I dug three holes in my flower bed in amongst the perennials and dumped in leaves and the kitchen trimmings through the winter to fill them up. We’ll see how that works. I do miss the chicken manure that my dad always gave me from his hens.

  143. John Thomson says

    Hi Guys
    A old galvanised rusted out water tank is all I use. Like Mike everything goes in and is forgotten. However I notice that no one seems to use a activator to speed up the process. Just a couple of comfrey leaves or some yarrow works wonders. It also helps that it is in the chook run as well. Mobile compost tiller machines they are. Then once a year I just tip it over and start again. I have to beat the chooks though otherwise they spread it every where looking for the worms. Good forum guys. Cheers from Australia.

  144. Linda says

    Hi Mike I keep it simple I have a roto composter, all non cooked veg and yard waste plus fallen fruit from our orange tree. also the grounds from our morning coffee go in, then give it a spin. adds a little sour to our extra sweet soil.
    My japanese iris, and blue berries love it.

  145. Grace~Shanti says

    Hi Mike and forum readers

    I use the KISS principle and just Keep It Simple Sweetheart. ALL food scraps go in to a large oval bin [the usual NO Meat/Onion family/Citrus/Dairy and so forth.] I do NOT put weeds in either cos figure it CAN encourage them to spread. Not that often I put in layer of cardboard or non inked paper. Like you Mike have a weakness in my back so NO turning it over for me, though I would REALLY like to. Give it a good water from time to time and that’s about it really. My compost always has heaps of worms without adding any so figure Im doing something right. p.s. live in Australia so we possibly do some stuff differently and maybe not.
    Cheers

  146. Fred Moudy says

    HI Everyone

    I started using a 4 foot by 4 foot bin made from chicken wire, and turned it about every two weeks.

    Later I bought a Kubota tractor with a loader, then when
    I seen the lawn maintenance people I asked them if they wanted a place to dump their grass and leaves, I had 18 people contributing this way.

    I also contacted a few tree trimmers for wood chips and I have 4 of them bringing wood chips of all kinds.

    The ratio I try to use is 6 buckets of leaves to 1 bucket of grass, I do shred my leaves up it not only condenses the pile but it starts to work faster I can stack it today and it will be starting to heat the next morning.

    My grass and leaves will get to 165 degrees, while the wood chips will get to 150 degrees, I don’t turn the wood chips and if the leaves get ahead of me I just stack them amnd work as I have time, keep them wet and they will work on their own.

    Fred

    PS: I use it everywhere

  147. Art says

    We started gardening many years ago, and our soil was very hard clay. We absolutely had to improve our soil, if we hoped to have success with our gardens!!

    My wife was the Food Service Director at a large nursing home, so we began bringing home all their food scraps and coffee grounds for composting. We also include all our lawn and garden clippings. In order to supplement these “greens”, we collect all our neighbors leaves in the fall. I use my lawn mower to mulch the leaves, in order to expedite the composting process, and bag them for layering the compost bins throughout the year. We also use our shredded newspapers (no glossy pages).

    I have about 12 compost bins, in various stages of composting. While I’m not as good about “turning the piles” as I might be, I do run my Mantis Tiller through the bins periodically, to aerate the piles, and rotate the contents to the next bin. The finished compost is added to our gardens in the fall, and turned under to await spring plantings. Our garden soil is now some of the best in our area … So good that I no longer use my Mantis Tiller in the gardens, in order to “save the worms” for their beneficial castings and aeration.

    We’re extremely happy with our gardening success, and also glad to keep this out of the landfill!! We’re now
    locally known as “master composters”. ;-)

  148. Lynne says

    Mike,
    I jut simply throw all of my spring clean-up, debris from any deadheading and such – especially grass edgings in a pile (everything but sticks). I don’t turn it but if it hasn’t rained I will throw some water in it. The soil underneath turns out great!
    Lynne

  149. Annette Schwiebert says

    We compost in a BIG way. We have a huge field and got the power company to dump their mulched branches from last spring over there. To some of that we have added horse manure from friends of ours and some we have left as is to use as mulch. We also have several large bins we use to compost from our kitchen and grass clippings. It all goes into our veggie garden and around landscape plants. And the best part is – it’s all free!

  150. Don M says

    Wow. Such great and wonderful comments.
    it’s depressing. I’m zooming in on 50, working construction many times out of town, leaving 2 days a week to catch up on everything. I plant a garden, and the weeds take it. I don’t have time or inclination to do ratios or stuff with my compost. I just throw my yard waste into a pile, and wait till next year. Can’t get stuff to grow, can’t get stuff to rot. Interesting…

  151. carol says

    I am a composting beginner and have tried to approximate the raios of green to brown. I add our kitchen scraps when the holding container is full and always cover them by adding more leaves (saved from the fall) or I bury the scraps into the pile itself. I have a plastic bin with a critter proof lid…though the squirrels tried to get in. I turn the pile nearly every time I add to it, but if I am continually adding new food scraps to the pile how is it turning into usable compost? I have room to create a 2nd pile, but I am concerned about the critters that would be drawn to it. I didn’t see any comments about keeping critters away from the compost pile.
    Look forward to the comments. Thanks

  152. Gaia Gardening Gal says

    hi from Canada…appreciate everyone’s great notes…I do cover my pallet/chicken wire makeshift compost and keep it covered as I read that rain or snow will dilute the good stuff and not leave the bacteria what it needs as well as keeping in the heat and moisture…also I read using coke cola(the real thing) helps to get rid of the bad bugs and give sweet for the good bugs…apparently it also accelerates the composting process.

    I also have composted directly on the flower beds, in particular those flowers that love coffee grounds – I was putting some grounds on an azaela and the coffee water ran to a dahlia – the coffee grounds made that dahlia 3x the size of other dahlia that did not receive the grounds…ye old mistakes are sometimes happy surprises!

    Also, I use urine on the compost depending on how much chicken manure the girls put out. A biggie – I put urine/or eggs in buried yogurt tubs…with just the lid showing (needle punctures in the lid) and the smell is not great but it really keeps deer from the garden. Also I have read that onion smells keep rabbits at bay so am keeping my onion material for those plants that the huge arctic hares devour – like my daylilies??? I just plain out feed the groundhog sunflower seeds, carrot or watermelon and she stopped eating the garden! I do use chicken wire to keep out all the furry forest visitors.

    I have also heard that comfrey is yummy phosphorus for a compost too and look forward to adding that this year. I also use a wee bit of dish soap to help the good bacteria. Banana peel is another great addition for nitrogen if you don’t have chickens etc.

    I too love my mantis tiller but had not used it on my composting piles…bruuum brummmmm! We still have snow, (crazy late spring) and am eager to get out and garden next week when the temps rise above zero! Happy gardening and composting everyone from the boreal forest in Canada! GGG

  153. Nancy IAK says

    Hi, gardeners!

    I compost on a very small scale — just using a plastic Maxwell House coffee can with a tight lid kept under my sink —

    About composting — we compost oak leaves mostly, and mostly because we have so many of them! Our lawnmower is a mulcher, so usually we don’t have grass clippings. I save the prunings from my plants (except for the branches from the shrubs) for the compost, too.

    Mostly what I do is kitchen composting, of all the organic and plant-based stuff from the kitchen. I use the trench composting method (just dig a hole, dump in the goods, chop it up good with the shovel, replace the dirt). This has enriched our soil here in North Carolina, which is very heavy clay. We first started using this method when we lived on the Gulf Coast in Florida where our soil was poor and sandy — I’d bury the kitchen compost in the flower garden, working from one end to another, every few days.

    My method is very simple but it works fine and I always have rich dirt to use in my flowerbeds.

    Good luck to everyone and thanks for all the information!
    Nancy

  154. says

    Well with the snow piling up at the back door, I compost into ice cream pails and when full, store them in the attached garage.
    Come Spring or when the snow has disappeared from the back door, I add water to the mix (in the pails) and put them on the porch. At my first available opportunity, they – the ice cream pails – get dumped onto the compost pile.
    By this time the contents are pretty much mush so it makes stirring them in much easier. Most of the work is done already.
    Cheers
    Sue

  155. sandr says

    I use an old vita mixer, and when my coffee can is full of my kitchen scrap ,run it through the blender, take it out, mix in a little soil and pour it around my plants except in winter. I too store mine in the Garage. I keep my coffee grounds and used tea bags in a separate container. It’s been working great for me for the last 3 years.
    Sandra

  156. Ann K. says

    Mike,
    Have to say first I enjoy your info/emails a lot. Thanx for sharing your knowledge & humour. Also, great idea, this ‘forum’!!
    As to composting;
    I do for several reasons: giving back to the earth, less ‘garbage’ going to landfill, less costly than buying topsoil / fertilizer, it’s relatively easy & fun to do, and gives me a good productive feeling.
    How I have been doing this,- on a small strip of ground (2′x6′) beside my house, I’ve been tossing my household kitchen scraps & shredded paper waste, also results of weeding &/ pruning, & some lawn clippings & leaves. I’ve never watered or turned it, as a believer of KISS methods. I then shovelled it into my wheelbarrow to dump on gardens. Then it got roto-tilled in every spring. It wasn’t good dirt yet, but I have faith in its ability to finish the job by itself, once ‘planted’.
    Most of my lawn clippings I use as mulch to keep down weed growth on my flower beds, & between rows in garden. I’ve never raked leaves as I believe they also decompose & add nutrients to the soil wherever they land.
    I have decided to try using a compost container of some type this year tho, & adding Red Wigglers to help speed it up.
    After reading the great info provided here, I’ve decided to incorporate a few ideas also. I like the idea of putting my kitchen scraps thru my blender to break them down before tossing into compost.
    Thanx everyone for sharing!!

  157. Kathy R. Godail says

    We drilled holes in a 50 gal. plastic drum with spring action closure and roll it around a couple of times a week. Besides the obvious, I add paper from our shredder, newsprint and leaves for brown stuff. I find weeds and horse manure to cause more problems than anything.

  158. Bob Schurr says

    I live ln Florida and have two large magnolia trees that shed huge leaves year round. It would cost a fortune to buy bags to pick up all the leaves. I wave a pit built with old cinder blocks jn the back yard where i dump the leaves. It takes about a year for them to decompose but the bottom of the pile always has good soil when I need it. There is also lots of worms. That is why I call it a worm bed and not a compost pile.

  159. G.P.Wristbridge says

    Simple process. In the fall, I grind up my many many leaves three times with my vacumn mower tractor, throw them down on a pile on the back of my property, out of the way. I wet them down once as I dump them on each other. I do the same thing in the spring when I clean the leaves from around the hydrangeas which surround my house and fence. Note that it took me several years, but I now have a compost pile which is black as night about the size of my living room and dining room combined. I put it to good use because I live near the east coast and have very sandy soil.

  160. Richard Isaacson says

    Hi Mike!
    My compost consist of approximately 40% horse manure,30% dead leaves, 20% grass clippings, 5% shredded newspaper,4% food scraps ( no meat or dairy ) egg shells, coffee grounds, and small fish Bluegill and Crappie. I have two bins. About once a month I move it from one bin to the other and lightly water it as I go if needed.
    When the pile is finished I till it into my garden and watch the miracle of nature happen. I once grew what I call a freak tomato. It weighed 7lb 4oz. I took it to work and weighed it on a postal scale in front of wittnesses because I myself founf it hard to believe.

  161. Sharon W says

    We have a spot in the edge of the garden that we throw kitchen scraps. We throw in coffee filters and tea bags for brown stuff. Maybe a leaf if it blows in there. It doesn’t get turned, but, when we have the garden plowed the fellow goes over the compost pile and spreads it on that side of the garden. I also throw scraps all over the garden in the summer to break down for the fall garden. It’s to hot here in the South to do to much gardening in the summer.

  162. Lisa says

    My pile gets turned every spring when I dig to the bottom for finished compost to throw in my garden and flower beds. It was always an ugly pile – 4 stakes in the ground surrounded by chicken wire. Last year I garbage picked a futon bed, took it apart – 8 screws- It was the exact size of my pile. I laid bricks around the base so the wood wouldn’t rest on the ground, and I zip tied the parts to the existing stakes and it looks great!

    Now, I think an old baby crib could be used the same way, they aren’t safe for babies anymore and if can stand to use your old that way, go for it.

  163. William says

    I don’t have a well working compost pile, The only material I have to work with is grass amd a few clippings from my bushes and maybe the leaves in the fall. Not many trees on my 1.5 achre lot. The grass clippings dont seem to be breaking down, instead I keep getting mold in the center and dry stuffs on the outside. I tried useing the small branch cuttings from the bushes (1/4 inch)to help airate the pile but still nothing. I haven’t looked at it yet this year to know what it looks like. Been useing Earth First compost I get by the truck load each spring for my gardens. I too have a packy clay like soil and until I started listening to you had NO IDEA that this crappy indiana clayish soil was so poor for growing anything but weeds. Since I went to raised beds, I have had great Veggy gardens and flower beds. Now I have to contend with the fact that the weeds really love what I have done with the place and have moved in to the flower and veg gardens. A massive chore which I hate but have to do. only wish my back would allow me to do more.
    Any suggestions to cure this Mold problem would be helpful. Oh by the way I don’t know if it’s true or not but I heard if you urinate on the pile it helps with the breakdown. Haven’t tried it and quite frankly not going to unless someone can prove it really works. I have destroyed several compost piles in the past and don’t wish to do it again.

  164. ryelee says

    Hi mike

    Here in the Philippines, we file every biodegradable materials. Manures, grass clippings,etc into the certain part of our yard for 15 days. After 15 days we apply Trichoderma and Effective micro organism by spraying. Next cover the file with black plastic. In order for the substrate to heat up and hasten decomposition. 35-45 days later. Compost is ready for what ever it may serve best.

  165. says

    To reduce the waste stream and eliminate landfills put anything organic in a rotting pile for soil building/plant food.
    First rule is NO MEAT!
    Egg shells and coffee grounds, onion heels, potato skins, broccoli stems. All make for great rotting soil and you can replant the new onion plants and potato plants that your pile gives you back fully matured if you skimp on the turning part. Bonus returns with no work!
    Be a soil builder not a resource waster.

  166. Ron B says

    Shortly Pile shredded trees, leaves and yard debris with clippings add organic animal wast, goat, cow, chicken, and rabbit. Mix in mushroom spon or buy discounted from store and since Im in an area where it is a defeat to try to fight the termites i let them do the work their good at. they break it down and pull it into the earth making a deeper bead then when i started.

  167. R. Carlos Cavazos says

    Have been composting since way back in the ’60s when I lived in the boonies of northern California’s Redwood country. There were no utilities except a small propane stove (though more often a wood stove) and wood burning fireplace.
    Folks composted because it seemed the natural thing to do with scraps, and, strapped for money a good, quality fertilizer was hardly affordable, unless we were willing to give up something else.
    I did not really start composting until I bought a little over three acres in North Carolina recently and took up gardening. Started just piling up leaves, grass clipping, and table scraps in a pile that I pretty much neglected – like Mike! – except for a rare turning of the pile, or watering. I did make sure to leave a flat, somewhat concave top to allow the rain to collect and drain into the pile.
    Mulch-mowed my way through my first year here, but after the first Fall, raked the leaves around the pin oaks, and in a pile by the pump house and let them over-winter. By Spring, I had some nicely wet and blackened pile of leaves under the dry outer layer of leaves.
    I consolidated them all into what I had saved of my first layered compost pile, kept tossing in table scraps and any grass clipping, brush clipping, etc. I collected into the pile
    Then I bought a lawn sweeper to tow with my John Deere Garden Mower. Continued mulch mowing the grass, but began sweeping the clippings and tossing them into the compost pile. Later, I got the bright and lazy idea to mulch-mow while towing the sweeper to do it all as one task. Takes a bit longer to mow, but the yard clippings wind up in the compost pile.
    I also bought a larger horizontal drum composter. Works well, but I have not yet been able to get composted soil in the six weeks they claim is possible, – probably because I do not pay that much attention to it either! Have gotten three loads of composted leaves, grass clipping, and kitchen scraps that have since gone into my garden soil.
    Right now, I have another pile of leaves and grass clipping composting in my usual pile, but three other smaller mostly leaf piles composting over the winter and another in the garden with leaves, grass clippings, and garden ruffage. Will likely consolidate these four piles into the big one, into one with two or three bins made from pallets like the one Mike has shown us. I will likely move the big pile I now have a few more feet NE so that it is in one of the bins I hope to locate right along the south-facing side of a fence line. I will continue using the drum composter, but likely use the smaller quantities it produces for just the flowers and shrubbery. The ‘regular’ compost will be for the garden.
    Have not paid much attention to the compost piles because after my first summer here, I planted a cover crop in the garden I had just finished laying out, tilling, and planting partially – with fairly dismal results I might add! In the Spring, I tilled the cover crop – Austrian Winter Peas – under into the garden beds and that year, by God’s grace, I had somewhat better produce.
    Last year, after the second cover crop – Austrian Winter Peas & Winter Rye – incorporated into the garden, the good Lord blessed my garden with an overabundance so that I was able to share the produce locally. Just tilled under the third year’s cover crop – Austrian Winter Peas, Winter Rye, & Buck Oats – into the garden soil and have begun transplanting my soil block seedlings now that it is warmer.
    Still will continue to compost, and hopefully pay more attention to the composting cycle for more productive composting, now that I am blessed with a fairly decent garden, – though it will still be a couple more years before the soil is truly garden soil. Had already dug out the garden paths between the garden beds and incorporated the path soil into the beds, and in the Spring added the ‘compost’ gathered from the kitchen, yard, and garden, with a thick layer of free composted leaves a local county provided and pine needles gathered from about one acre in Piney Woods I own. In the Fall, I again tilled the composted paths to incorporate them into the garden beds, repeating the cycle – though this year, I added wood chips to the paths thanks to an arborist friend who dropped off two truckloads for me late last Fall.
    This Fall, Lord willing, I will again till under the wood chips over the composted leaf layers in the paths to incorporate them into the garden beds. It does seem to add some weeds, but I have gotten weeds anyway, so I would just as soon have more of the organic matter in the garden beds despite potentially adding additional weed seeds.
    I hope someday to have enough good-quality composted matter from my compost pile(s) so that I can mulch over the garden beds, cover the drip irrigation lines with the composted mulch, and allow the lines to last longer protected from the elements while holding back the weed germination. Someday, maybe, I will join our local farmers in marketing produce at our Local Harvest Market … but, maybe, I will just keep sharing it.
    And that is why I compost! God bless.

  168. Coleen says

    Mike I tried to read all the posts but I knew most of them. I’ve been composting for years but not using my stuff. Two years ago we moved from Illinois to Idaho and it’s a lot dryer and we have more rocks. I want to use my compost faster so I did buy some activator (I’m impatient but not so impatient I want to buy compost) I also have worm bins (this is really good stuff for plants look into it if you don’t want to use fertilizer) and a blendtec. I use all my kitchen scraps for something or another– chickens, dog, worms or compost.

  169. Robert Fortner says

    Why Compost? 1.Its a good use of waste to good use.2.It is very beneficial to the soil.nutrients and microbes and such.3 is the one I like.It will break down soil that has a lot of clay in it.Makes it a lot easier to work with.As for the compost pile,people have lot of good ideas ,most of them will work,I suggest you make a fairly large pile if you expect it to heat up.The layering is good.Composting will take place without the heat but that takes about a season to happen.Take my advise about using Lacto-Bacillus.That is the beneficial microbe that breaks it down for you no matter what you do.Just keep it moist.Cover it with a little straw or canvas will help.The use of the Lacto will stop the smells too.

  170. Judith King says

    This is like a drink of cold water from the farm where I was raised in the midwest. All these “rules” about everything are ridiculous after awhile. I once started writing down all the things I “should” be doing. Then I calculated the time required to do them. I couldn’t stop laughing about worrying about all that. Now I am a committee of one and do the best I can.

    We are among those who compost leaves, twigs, kitchen vegetable wastes, just a partner to mother nature. I would add that I toss a few grains of lime on it every few years. That since we are within a 100 miles or so of ocean. I cannot afford to do things “right” but I just do them anyway as best I can with little time and few resources – just trying to use common sense as I go.

    I enjoy your column. Good luck to everyone in the new growing season.

  171. Marianna says

    I live in SC now and have 5 acres of brick making red clay with a ph of 4.5. Any topsoil is long gone. The soil is not as much poor as whatever nutrients are present are locked up and unavailable to plants. Furthermore, the soil is so compacted that neither water or air penetrates into more than an inch or so into the soil. For me, composting is an absolute must. My goal is to develop a topsoil layer of 6-12″ in my garden, flower beds and in locations where I will be planting fruits and berries and to raise the ph closer to neutral.

    For the most part, I use an “in situ” composting method. In fall, I rake leaves and put down a 2″ layer in half of the garden. During early winter, I feed round bales of hay to our 2 horses where I have spread the leaves. The hay spillage adds a layer of rotten hay and manure to my mix. In late winter, I till this into the soil with lime or chicken litter which provides calcium to help raise the ph and make more of the nutrients available to plants. All year, my coffee grounds and egg shells go into the garden. In the growing season, I plant my larger plants tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. into the composted area and my smaller seeded items like carrots and lettuce in the unimproved section. The next year, I do the other half of the garden and switch my planting scheme. I have been doing this for 6 years now and have turned the soil from red to a lovely dark brown. I have waist high summer squash, eggplant and pepper plants with tons of production and tomatoes that overwhelm any cages I have yet to find.

    Not everyone has a built in source of horse manure as we do, but it can be obtained from local horse owners or barns. The only caveat is to remember that it is a ‘hot manure’ (a 6″layer of strait fresh manure if often put at the bottom of a raised bed and covered with the growing medium because the manure will produce heat as it decomposes and raise soil temperatures to allow plants a head start on the growing season.) and that barns often use lime to keep stalls dry and cut down on insects in summer. This means, if you use it, you should check your soil ph to make sure it is not getting too high for what you wish to grow.

    Because soil temperatures get very high here in summer, mulching decorative and fruiting plants is a must both to preserve moisture and keep soil temperatures from getting so hot they fry plants. I use a double ground softwood bark mulch because it will break down faster than a hardwood mulch. In fall after hard frost, I rake the top layer of mulch away, apply a layer of organic composted material and then replace what mulch still remains back. The winter rain and snow will slowly create and release a manure tea into the root zone. In spring just before the growing season starts, I will add another layer of fertilizer and lime (except for the blueberries and blackberries) and then renew the mulch to a depth of 4-6″.

  172. ana says

    I compost… secretly…
    My husband tends to throw away cut grass from our small 650 sq feet garden. There’s a ditch between the wire fence and a line of Cupressus arizonicas which obrder the 107 sq ft. vegetable garden, so I dump it there when he’s not aware. I add plants clippings, vegetable peelings and coffee grounds. And I let it be. As it is a dark wet corner I guess it rots. And once in a while I pick a bit of what it has become and I mix it into the vegetable garden soil. That’s about all.
    Found the beer idea most interesting. Will try it.
    And above all, I love your blog. thanks for your cheerful attitude.

  173. George says

    I use the Bokashi method of composting. It is much faster than other methods and I can also feed it to my worms. Do some research on it and I think you will see the benefits.

  174. John Carstens says

    Mike,
    I just moved into our home here in central Florida a couple of years back and have not yet started composting but I can say from past experiences in New Jersey it is the answer.
    My first garden in NJ I dug loose clay for about 6 inches then it became hard clay and I had to pick-ax the entire garden. The first year cukes died on the vine and nothing really grew. That fall I went about the neighborhood picking up leaf bag, after leaf bag, people put at the curb for collection. I then ran them through my shredder, also chopped small branches, and added OLD chicken manurer to the shredder. I covered the turned ground with red sand to brake down the clay, and topped it all off with shreddings. I piled it up from 6″ to 8″ on top of the soil to rot under the winter snow. In the following spring around March 1st I turned all this over again, then raked it out and planted my garden in that May. The next cucumbers had leaves looked like elephant ears, and cukes were about a foot long and big around, and were great eating, as was all the vegtables I planted that spring. YES! YES! YES! I do recommend composting!
    John

  175. Carol says

    I have a compost bin in which I throw garden prunings, fallen leaves, spent plants, paper, etc. I empty compost from old pots into this bin as well, and have even buried a couple of deceased ducks under the bin. With hot, wet tropical summers the contents compost quickly. The compost bin has slots along the sides and in the doors at the bottom to aid aeration. Consequently, I do not turn or stir the contents. I simply let it compost naturally with the finished compost forming at the bottom of the bin. The doors at the base of the bin can be opened to access the compost. I simply take a pot or container to the bin, open the door and scrape out the compost.

    I also keep a three tier worm farm into which I empty kitchen scraps, tea bags, coffee filter papers and coffee grounds, cardboard, shredded paper, and so forth. The worm farm contains Red Wriggler compost worms which are very effective in chomping through the scraps. If I have more scraps than the worms can handle, the excess goes into the compost bin until I see that all the food in the worm bin has been eaten. I keep a bucket beneath the worm farm tap, which I leave open at all times to drain excess liquid from the farm so that the worms don’t drown. I pour a little of this water back into the worm farm as it helps speed up composting, I add a little of the worm liquid to the compost bin for the same purpose and to add some worm eggs to hatch and start a new colony in the compost bin. Remaining worm liquid is added to plants as a fertiliser.

    When I have large branches, palm leaves, etc, which are too big or tough to be broken into smaller pieces or shredded (using mower or shredder) I simply toss these into a concealed corner of the garden and leave these to break down and compost naturally. I find this takes up to a year in this climate, by which even the toughest palm fronds compost into dark, friable soil.

  176. Richard says

    Mike and fellow growers, Explore an old system from Germany, Hugelkultur, hugel(German for mound)culture, involves layering compostable materials to form a mound that breaks down while providing immediate growing space, moisture retention, nutrients, oxygen and drainage. Check out urbanfarmonline.com(May/June,’13), richsoil.com, permies.com
    Also organicgardening.com and motherearthnews.com are great resources. Thanks Mike and all for your wisdom, Richard in Utah.

  177. says

    Mike I have found the perfect use for all those credit card offers and junk mail. First they are sent thru the shredder and than along with grass clippings and/or straw
    it is used for chicken bedding. after the chickens get done with it it is tilled into the garden and used around plants
    for mulch. Coffee grounds,ground up egg shells, orange peels
    ect are also added to the garden all year, somehow without
    the fancy composter they rot up never to be seen again.
    (Must be the army of worms)

  178. sara says

    I take the everything I wish to compost and put it into the freezer overnight. This speeds the composting process up.

  179. Lucille says

    My gardener likes to use epson salt and micracle grow potting soil mixed with the clay soil when planting…does this make for good result?

    • Mike says

      Lucille,

      I really don’t know. I’d rather use rotted, bagged cow manure with topsoil. I think the plants would like it better, but if your gardener is doing a good job then let him do what he thinks is right.

  180. Ava says

    Hi Mike and All,

    I brought a load of mushroom compost and was very disappointed. If I would have know that it was going to be full of fire ants, metal pieces, trash, grass and most of all tons of fungi gnats, I would have never gotten it. Now my whole yards, beds, containers are infested with flying pesty gnats.

    Can anyone tell me how to rid them. Thanks for all your info you share with the world.

  181. Norbert st pierre says

    I build a four part holding bin with wire fencing material, 12 ft by 12 ft, 4 ft high. I fill each quarter to the top and go on to the next in turn. By the time I get to the 1st, it has shrunk enough to start filling it again. It takes less time to fill each, but, they start shrinking faster and faster. After three years, the worm population starts exploding and reaching up into the stacks. I filled the stacks with every imaginable organic material. Even solid wood ends up completely converted to humus. Way past just mulch. This works for the gardener who just wants to get rid of “ organic garbage” with the least effort. I planted a grape vine at each corner and after five years, those plants just went nuts as they must have started gaining nutrients from the stack after each rain.

  182. Susie says

    Hi Mike,
    I guess I’m kinda lazy, kinda weak, and just not into spending my time on compost, but I truly believe in it. I just don’t believe it should involve hard work. I wired four old pallets together in a haphazard cube formation, the last not attached to the first, so it could swing open and closed like a door. I forgot about opening the door, it became a chore. I just throw stuff in over the top, keeping an old container on the kitchen counter to empty when full.

    I did try the leaves thing, but oy! what a chore to rake the lawn! (I have a really bad shoulder). So now in the fall, I keep my lawn really short, mulching the leaves as I go, but with the grass so short, they all blow onto my neighbor’s lawn, he has a tractor and a power blower, lots of toys. It’s amazing how guilty I don’t feel..

    The grass – yeah, sometimes I don’t get around to cutting it as often as I should, so then I have to put the bag on the back of the mower, and keep emptying it into the compost. I prefer to mulch mow tho’ it’s quicker and easier, even then, it takes me nearly an hour and a half.

    The rain and snow takes care of watering it. There is no way I’m putting any precious soil in there, all mine is clay, sand and rocks. I must have the only property in Vermont with no topsoil. Now I have chickens, so last week I opened up the pallets, reconfigured them to make a new box, and am trying to encourage the chooks to get scratching in the ‘pile’. There is a nice thick layer of black gold on the bottom…. those chickens better get to work!!! save my shoulder…

    oh, and to Ava above, pour hot white vinegar on fire ants nests and RUN like heck!!! get some quail,or ducks, they’ll eat all the bugs, but won’t scratch up the yard like chickens, you’ll still get eggs. I have heard that mixing cornmeal in your soil in the fall gets rid of fungus, but I don’t know about fungi gnats. Good Luck.

  183. Jennifer H says

    I have a few lazy methods. I have one big store bought plastic compost box that I use for the long term compost. I put in all my “spring grooming” (all the leaves and branches I pruned from the fruit shrubs, vines, dead bulb tops, etc and any compacted dirt from flower beds I’m restarting) and then pretty much leave it alone unless some other big amount of plant clippings comes along like deadheading flowers.

    Mainly I use my side flower bed that is fenced off and where the three chicken are housed with the berry bushes and vines. The chickens clean up any stray berries and leaves and poop where they will. I also bury buckets with holes in the bottom for worm composting around the garden and throw the kitchen scraps (that the chickens won’t eat) in there. The draining juices attract “wild” worms and fertilizes the plants. Every once in awhile I pull a bucket it up to let the chickens enjoy the buffet of worms. I generally throw excess garden soil and dead plant roots (the stuff left over in pots after the annuals die) deadheaded flowers and any little misc garden stuff in this bed for the chickens to roll around in the dirt. In the winter I put straw bales out there for the chickens to peck at and to much over the plants and by spring they have all started decomposing so I till them into the soil with the stuff from my black box from the previous year and used the dirt in that garden bed for my new years bed and start the set up over again.

    Side Note: I used to bury buckets for kitchen scraps around all my garden beds but my dog figured out how to get the lid off and got high as a kite off whatever she ate in there and scared me to death so now they all stay in the fenced off garden.

  184. Erick Oshel says

    This is a great discussion on how and why to compost. There have been numerous suggestions, but I since I haven’t seen it yet, I just want to spread a word of caution about “spontaneous” combustion. Please make sure you keep your pile/bin away from the house, it is possible for compost piles to catch on fire, especially if you tend to put a lot of “green” material in your compost.
    This happened to us one summer several years ago. My mother put some towels with linseed oil near of a pile of grass clippings to dry. FLOOM!! The heat from the decomposing grass caught the towels on fire and we had five foot tall flames coming from our pile! Luckily we were able to put the fire out with a garden hose before it got to the wood pile.
    If you keep you watch your brown/green ratio and keep your greens low enough, and if you keep the pile mixed and keep it wet enough, you should be safe, but do remember, fires CAN and DO happen. Stay safe and happy gardening!

    • Ranga says

      I also noticed that the clippings pile got very hot inside. Is the heat not good for decomposition as long as the grass does not get dry?

  185. Patricia says

    Hi Mike

    Right timing for this topic. Million thanks. My method of composting is very easy. I am using a water dispenser with a tap. Inside this dispenser there is a plastic mesh to hold all veg, coffee grains, tea bags, egg shells and fruit peels except citrus cos’ the worms do not like them. In between I will sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Bio Booster and there is no foul smell. After awhile I just turn on the tap to collect the liquid. With this I just dilute with water and is used as a liquid fertilizer. I just keep on topping it up.

    Warmest regards
    Patricia

  186. Loris says

    Thanks Mike.
    My compost is a large pile of dirt left over from some work we did in the yard. I dug holes in it about 9 inches deep with my spade and every day or so I dump in all my kitchen wastes (fruits, vegetables, eggs, coffee grounds, etc.) I use my shovel to mix into the dirt and put a small amount of dirt on top…I continue in that hole until its full and then I dig another hole…I add weeds, grass and leaves sometimes. That’s it! I don’t turn it either. I have a lot earth worms too. Love them! I believe in “K I S S” (Keep it simple sweetie). Good Luck!

  187. Rebecca Wilson says

    I compost for several reasons. Firstly the idiot who decided to build this house on 20 acres in 1980 bulldozed all the trees and topsoil down the hill to prep the site. Nothing but weeds has really grow well since. There were 2 gardenias and 1 flower in the backyard when I moved in late 2008. One was in the shade, planted in chirt which is clay and rock. Didn’t do well.
    I can’t live without flowers!

    My husband, bless him, rented a tiller and dug me a spot for a flower bed. It took him 2 weeks to recover. I knew I had to take matters into my hands if I wanted to Not become a widow. I was recovering from the ill effects of a double mastectomy and almost 2 years of chemo and didn’t have much energy or strength for physical labor. Gardening was my therapy! I had to use methods that would make it as easy for me as possible.

    I started lasagna composting where I wanted flower beds. I let the worms do the work for me. Patience pays very richly. He had serious doubts about my methods. He looked disgustedly at it when I was done. I have to admit it did look a little rednecky… okay, a lot rednecky! Several months after I put the layers of boxes, shredded paper, coffee grounds and compost from my composter, I decided it was time to prepare it for planting. I got my garden spade and went to dig it up. I could see him stop in the middle of the yard to watch me fail to dig into it. When the garden spade slid effortlessly into the soil at least 20″ I could hear him gasp from across the yard. He hotfooted it over to see for himself up close. It wasn’t 5 feet from where he had about killed himself with the tiller. He has told many people about my redneck gardening since, and with pride!

    Since then I have made many more beds and gotten lots more energy back. The land and I are healing together.

    I have a drum composter that I put all our kitchen scraps, shredded paper(I get big bags of it from an insurance office), leaves, garden clippings, coffee grounds(bags from Starbucks), dog hair, vaccume cleaner trash, old cereal, bread, well just about anything but onions, meat and dairy into it. I spread it into new beds, sprinkle it around flowers and make compost tea to water my flowers.

    I don’t like to spend money on expensive bags of soil, compost and fertilizers. I prefer to use the gifts from nature and get a much richer and free product and spend that money on new flowers. I also go into the woods with my wheelbarrow, pitch fork and shovel and get rotten, fallen trees to put in my lasagna beds. I’m going today to get big bags of “free” wood chips. Next week I’m going to get truckloads of rabbit manure and composted leaves for about $35 for each load, different places.

    He told me in the 20 years he had been living here he had never once come and sat on the deck alone. Now he uses it often.

    I’ve been collecting free windows and doors from Craigslist to make a greenhouse. I’ve almost gotten enough. Today I go for 3 sliding doors and pallets. The pallets are a good source of wood to make many things and I burn the scraps in our fire pit.

    I bought over 200 rc’s and liners of flowers, bushes and trees from the growers board and put them in a starter bed. Only a handful aren’t flourishing. I’m very happy with my results.

    Thank you for the resources you have made available to me. Keep the tidbits coming.

    Wishing you all the best,

    Rebecca Wilson

  188. Christa Krueger says

    Hi Mike, LOVE your site and all the advice and instructions you so eagerly pass on.
    I wrote you many times, I can not sell from my property. Our local bylaw (Canada) will serve me with a hefty fine, as our neighbourhood is not zoned for commercial activities.
    Even if I had a spare bedroom, I am not allowed to let someone use it, other than a visitor, for any length of time. We are a University City and Students would love to live in my house. They like my garden.
    I also do not compost anymore, do to health reasons, also we needed that extra little space to try and grow a few organic veggies. But nothing is wasted, as we have an elaborate composting facility in the city, also we have a ‘green bin’, which is being picked up weekly. Therefore our footprint is rather small, as we recycle everything, the yard waste, hubby takes to the compost facility. Thanks, for keeping me on your mailing list.

  189. Phaedra says

    i have made keyhole gardens with a worm tower in the center, all i do is add my kitchen scraps, and yard debris,and the worms do the rest!!

  190. says

    Mike , I love reading your mail. I have been a gardener for along time and that is the one thing I do well. I compost in 2 piles. One for the current year and I use the one from the prior year. My soil was mostly clay and now it is very rich and dark. We moved in our home 4 years ago and i can see a big difference in my soil.
    Thank you

  191. moondrop says

    Hi Mike,
    I live on a waterfront(lake) property and will be attempting a compost pile this year. Each spring I clean up the leaves, grasses (seaweed?) and small branches that accumulate in the water right along the shoreline. Can I throw this stuff into my compost pile?
    Thanks for your help on this.

  192. CR says

    Hi Mike,
    I am an old school composter. I do not use any accelerators nor do I turn it. I have used the metal display rack normally used as a store display for balls. It cages in my compost and keeps the critters out. Being in the rocky state of Maine I usually have rocks which “crop up” in my lawn. I place the “cage over the spot I want to add soil add my kitchen waste, plants I have uprooted from my garden and any other yard waste I may have. My soil is fertile thus the worms have no trouble finding the new food source and they reduce the compost in a very short time. When I have enough coverage I remove the “cage” and put it in a new spot. For my compost containers I use, from the house to the compost pit, I use “buckets” from store bakeries. Frosting comes in two different sizes and the bakery department is usually happy to pass them along to customers rather than recycling them. They are helpful for storing many garden items. They have lids and if desired holes can be easily made for ventilation. Hope this info is helpful.

  193. Cad says

    We chop forage sorghum into about ten wagon loads,onward to the pile, then loader bucket horse/sheep manure on and in, mix for couple years, spread eight inches over half acre garden, till in a foot deep. Results seem to support the time spent.

  194. Ashli says

    Magnificent website. Lots of useful information here. I am sending it to some buddies ans additionally
    sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks in your sweat!

  195. Melissa says

    Wow Mike I guess my composting technique is a bit like yours. I can’t turn the compost either and I tried once and that was good enough. I just let it rot and it does eventually. You had a few good tips I can use. I have had problems with mold growing in my heap of grass clippings. Layering that with some soil sounds like a solution. But the best thing in the end is just let it completely rot. It will be ready to use eventually.
    My best compost heap was a flower bed. It wasn’t going to be a flower bed at first, it started life out as a tree that got old and was cut down to a stump. Then the stump was chopped up. Then the chopped up stump became a hole in the ground. I didn’t want to pay for soil to fill it so I stuffed it full of grass clippings. They broke down became soil and there was no real hole there anymore, just my memory of a once beautiful tree. then I thought that would be a great place for a flower bed. I planted tea roses and boy did they love it there. I even succeeded my first ever rooting from the rootstock of a knockout rose.
    I think the best compost heap is dig a hole, fill it with compost. The worms seem to get into it better, it stays moist and breaks down much more thoroughly. Very trouble and labor-free.

  196. Bob Mozer says

    Hi Mike…I just got your nursery pots and I was looking for some guidance on making my own potting soil. I tried to search your site and nothing came up. Your list of videos is extensive, but it’s too tedious to scroll through them one at a time.
    Can you help?
    Bob