Composting is nature's way of recycling organic
materials back into the soil in order for the cycle of
life to continue. The billions of living organisms
in healthy soil transform dead plants into vital
nutrients for new plant growth. Since healthy
plants come from healthy soil, one of the best
ways you can build healthy soil in your garden
and lawn is by using compost. You can easily make
compost with landscape trimmings and food scraps in your own
backyard. With a small investment in time, you can improve the health and appearance
of your yard, save money on fertilizers and mulch, all while preserving natural resources
and protecting the health of your family and pets.
Why compost?
 ft It's earth-friendly: Food scraps and yard waste make up 20-30% of the waste
    stream. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills, where they
    take up precious space and release methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more
    potent than carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.

 ft It benefits your yard: Compost improves soil structure and texture, increases
    the soil's ability to hold both water and air, improves soil fertility,  and stimulates
    healthy root development in plants.

 ft It's easy: You can start with just leaves and grass, then
    work your way towards composting your food scraps.

 ft It saves money: Adding compost to your garden
    can reduce or eliminate the need to buy chemical
    fertilizers or compost.  If you pay for the amount of
    trash hauled,  composting can also cut down on your
    trash costs.
             United States
             Environmental Protection
                                               U.S. EPA Sustainable Landscapes
What do I need to do to make compost.
 l\ Bin or Pile?  Some people start with an easy pile, and then move to a bin when
    they're ready.  You can give your pile some structure with chicken wire, snow
    fencing, or by nailing scrap wood together to make a four-sided box. A pile
    works great for just leaves and grass clippings, but when you want to incorporate
    food waste, it's time to use a bin to prevent rodents. Closed-top bins include
    turning units, stacking bins, and bins with flip tops. Many communities provide
    their residents free or discounted bins to encourage backyard composting.  Bins
    can also be purchased from retail or mail order businesses. Take the time to
    consider your options and then select a bin or pile to fit your needs.

    Space. Select a dry, shady, or partly shady spot near a water source and
    preferably out of sight for your compost pile or bin. Ideally, the compost area
    should be at least three feet wide by three feet deep by three feet tall (one cubic
    yard). This size provides enough food and insulation to keep the organisms in
    the compost warm and happy and working hard. However, piles can be  larger or
    smaller and work just fine if managed well.
    Browns for carbon, greens for nitrogen, air for organisms, and water
    for moisture.
    Brown material provides carbon and includes:
       Paper, like shredded pieces of paper, cardboard, and paper rolls,
    ft Dry yard waste, like dry leaves, small branches, and twigs, straw, sawdust,
       and used potting soil.

    Green material provides nitrogen and includes:
    ft Wet yard waste like fresh grass clippings, green leaves, and soft garden prunings
       Food scraps  like vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds, and tea bags.
  Vermicomposting is a method of composting using a special kind of earthworm known as a
  red wiggler (Elseniafetida), which eats its weight in organic matter each day. Vermicomposting
  is typically done in a covered container with a bedding of dirt, newspaper, or leaves. Fruit
  and vegetable scraps can then be added as food for the worms. Over time, the food will be
  replaced with worm droppings, a rich brown matter that is an excellent natural plant food.
  Vermicomposting requires less space than normal composting methods, and is therefore ideal
  for classrooms, apartments, and high-density urban areas.

  How do I make compost?
      Add your brown and green materials (generally three parts browns to one part
      greens), making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded. The ideal compost
      pile contains browns and greens (of varying sizes) placed in alternate layers of
      different-size particles.
   2  Mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable
      waste under 10 inches of compost material.
      As materials breakdown, the pile will get warm and on cold days you may even
      see some steam.
      Every time you add to the pile, turnover and fluff it with a pitchfork to provide
      aeration, unless your bin has a turner.
   5  When material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, with no
      remnants of your food or yard waste, your compost is ready
      to use. There may be a few chunks of woody material left;
      these can be screened out and put back into a new pile. The
      resulting compost can be applied to lawns and gardens to
      help condition the soil and replenish nutrients. Compost
      should not be used as potting soil for houseplants because
      it may still contain vegetable and grass seeds.
  How do I get started?
    What to add
                                                                        United States
                                                                        Environmental Protection
                                                                                                                                          U.S. EPA Sustainable Landscapes
                                                        Troubleshooting Your Pile
                                                         Rotten egg smell
                                                        Ammonia smell
                                                         Pile does not heat
                                                         up or decomposes
                                                    Insufficient air or too
                                                    much moisture
                                                                            Too much nitrogen
                                                                            Pile too small
                                                    Insufficient moisture
                                                                            Lack of nitrogen
                                                                            Not enough air
                                                                            Cold weather
                                      Turn pile and incorporate coarse browns
                                      (sawdust, leaves)
                                                                        Incorporate coarse browns (sawdust, leaves)
                                                                        Add more organic matter
                                                                        Turn pile and add water
                                                                        Incorporate food waste, grass clippings,
                                                                                                or manure
                                                                        Turn pile
                                                                                                Increase pile size or insulate with straw
                                                                                                or a tarp
                                                          What not to add
    • Uncooked or cooked
      fruits and vegetables
    • Bread and grains

    • Cotton or wool rags
    • Dryer and vacuum
      cleaner lint
    • Eggshells
    • Nut shells
    • Fireplace ashes (from
      wood burning)
Coffee grounds and
Grass clippings
Hay and straw
Yard trimmings (e.g.,
leaves, branches, twigs)
Used potting soil
Wood chips
  Paper tea bags with the staple
  removed, if there is one.
• Leaves
• Shredded newspaper
• Cardboard rolls
• Clean paper
• Hair and fur
• Chicken, rabbit, cow, horse
• Aluminum, tin or other metal
• Glass
• Dairy products (e.g., butter, egg
 yolks, milk, sour cream, yogurt)
• Fats, grease, lard, or oils
• Greasy or oily foods
• Meat or seafood scraps
• Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat
 feces, soiled cat litter)
• Soiled diapers
• Plastic
Stickers from fruits or vegetables (to prevent litter)
Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
Roots of perennial weeds
Coal or charcoal ash
Firestarter logs
Treated or
painted wood
For more information on composting: To learn additional ways to green your lawn and garden:
                                                                                                              October 2009 | EPA530-F-09-026