Composting Dos & Don’ts

June 24, 2015

Composting is a great way to amend garden soil and reduce garbage waste. Enriching the soil by improving the structure, composting also adds nutrient content, helps reduce watering, and lessens the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. According to 50 Ways to Go Green, food scraps and yard waste make up 20-30 percent of our garbage. Composting lowers your carbon footprint by keeping this waste out of landfills.IMG_1110

Composting workhorses are microscopic organisms that eat and recycle the “food” you provide in your compost pile resulting in nutrient rich, natural fertilizer. Think composting is right for your and your garden? Here are some basic composting dos and don’ts from 50 Ways to Go Green to get you started.

Basic Ingredients

  • Browns for carbon – brown leaves, woodchips, small twigs, pine needles
  • Greens for nitrogen – green leaves, grass clippings, plant trimmings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, seed-free weeds, seaweed
  • Water for moisture – It’s a tricky balance to know just how much water to add and how often. Too much and you get a slimy mess, too little and the bacteria in your compost pile will die. Generally, the more greens you have in the pile, the less water you need. Your compost should not be wet, just moist. If you are composting outside, you should consider a composter with a lid or building a roof over your compost pile.

What not to add:

Diseased plants, weeds with seeds, kitty litter, pressure-treated wood, pesticide treated plants or grass, coal dust or ashes, fats or oils, meat, fish or dairy products including bones. Adding meat, fish or dairy can create a very smelly situation and attract unwanted animals to your backyard.


  • Compost in a pile or you can buy a compost bin such as the Soil Saver Compost Bin. Keep the compost pile away from yourcool father's day gifts house foundation and frequented areas of the yard to avoid rot and unpleasant odors. Also placing it in a shady spot keeps the compost from overheating. A compost pile should be approximately 140-150 F. Too hot and it will kill the microbes needed to digest the plant and other material. REOTEMP makes compost thermometers and other composting products.
  • Turn your pile weekly with a shovel to mix up the greens and browns. This also enables you to check your moisture level.

Want to know more? The Ecological Landscape Alliance has lots of info on composting and other responsible stewardship of land and natural resources.

0t4a7678_web_3For more tips and how to be eco friendly, check out Deckopedia’s 50 Ways to Go Green available for $19.95 at A sturdy deck of cards offering easy, earth-friendly ways to become more eco conscious. Deckopedia Publishing is a member of 1% For the Planet and donates 1% of its sales of 50 Ways to Go Green to Grades of Green.

Have fun with your adventure into composting.

-JE Forbes

Photo credits: Soil Saver Compost Bin courtesy of Clean Air Gardening






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