Composting 101

Gardening and composting go hand in hand.

Not long after we moved to our three acres in the country, I took up composting on a grand scale. 

At the property line in between the trees, there are several large piles of organic debris: tree limbs, leaves, corn stalks and other plant material, including weeds, that are too big for the compost bin.  These piles I let decay naturally.  I do nothing but add additional plant material to the piles.  Rabbits and other small animals make homes out of some of the piles.  Despite the piling on of material, the piles never get higher than two feet.  Nature takes care of the compacting and composting for me.

At the back of the potting shed, the "Earth Machine" as it is called, takes care of our organic kitchen scraps.

As part of the county's mission to reduce waste,
these compost bins were given away to encourage composting.
This bin has been producing compost for almost 15 years.

Composting in this vented bin is almost as carefree as the other compost piles.  Scraps (no meat or dairy) like potato skins, coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit peels, etc. are collected and kept in a closed gallon bucket in the garage.  At least once a week, the bucket is emptied into the Earth Machine.

As of late, mom and I have been picking and peeling apples.  The bad apples and peels went into the bin followed by a carbon layer of dried small sticks and leaves.  It is important to alternate layers of organic matter (green = nitrogen & brown = carbon).  Green grass clippings are a good source of nitrogen.  Occasionally, I add one or two shovels of dirt.  Dirt contains microbes and insects which help break down organic matter.  Periodically, I mix and tamp down the organic mixture adding a couple gallons of water if the mixture gets dry.  Moisture is needed to keep the organic material "hot" and decomposing.

This carbon layer went on top of the apple & peel layer.

At the bottom of the Earth Machine there is a sliding door.  The bottom is where the "black gold," or compost falls and compresses.  This is the good stuff: organic matter ready to be shoveled out and used around plants or to amend the vegetable garden.

This compost was used to fertilize the new mums planted this fall.


  1. That's a great Composting 101 article.
    As consumers, we generate a huge amount of organic waste. From coffee grounds and tea bags to the bits at the ends of string beans and banana peels, I'm amazed at how much compostable matter even a single adult creates in a week.
    Once I get paid, I need to get some kind of compost bin for my yard. Good inspiration!

  2. Wow, they gave away compost bins! Awesome! Your finished compost looks awesome! Do you mix the bin of organic material?