How to Compost

What is Composting?

Composting is the biological decomposition, or breakdown, of organic material by bacteria and other organisms. The result of this organic breakdown is compost, or humus: a dark, nutrient-rich soil conditioner. It is an inexpensive way to reduce the amount of garbage we send to landfills. Approximately 35% of household waste is organic material; that is kitchen and yard waste that could be diverted from landfills.

Not only does composting help reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, it creates an excellent soil conditioner for home landscaping and gardening. When used as mulch around garden plants, compost helps protect root systems from heat and water loss.

All organic material is composed of carbon and nitrogen and a balance of the two is essential for effective composting. A ratio of 30 parts "brown" material (carbon) to 1 part "green" material (nitrogen) will result in the quickest breakdown of organic material. Dry leaves, sawdust, straw and paper are high in carbon, while fresh grass clippings and fruit and vegetable scraps are high in nitrogen.

The Basics of Composting

Most materials don't fit the ideal carbon to nitrogen ration, but you can balance the mix. When adding carbon-rich materials (browns) make sure that you add equal amounts of nitrogen-rich materials (greens). For example, if you add a bucket of vegetable scraps, add a bucket of dried leaves.

As seasons change, available ingredients will change. In the fall, when there is an abundance of carbon-rich material, such as leaves, your compost pile may begin to "slow down". To supplement low nitrogen levels in the fall, add nitrogen fertilizer (46-0-0) to ensure faster breakdown of organic materials.

In the summer, when carbon-rich material is harder to find, add dried leaves, collected and stored from the previous fall. Soil and shredded newspaper can also be used to supplement a low carbon ratio. Remember, too much nitrogen will result in a smelly (ammonia) and slimy pile.

Our RDNO Compost Chart

Fruit/Vegetable scraps
  • nitrogen rich materials
  • decomposes faster when chopped
  • dig into center of pile and cover with carbon rich material or soil
Coffee grinds/Tea bags
  • nutrient source for the compost
Grass clippings
  • use in moderation
  • mix with brown material to avoid odour and matting
  • DO NOT use grass treated with pesticides
  • an excellent source of carbon material
  • collect in the fall to supplement low carbon ratios throughout the year
  • only if they are green and have not gone to seed
Egg shells
  • crush
  • source of calcium

Successful composting is easy!

Just follow these simple guidelines:

  • mix wet and dry materials
  • mix carbon rich and nitrogen rich materials
  • keep well aerated
  • Think ahead!

Successful composters collect and store leaves and soil to cover kitchen scraps, ensuring effective composting year-round.

Materials not suitable for composting:

  • barbeque ashes
  • dairy products
  • meat and bones
  • fat
  • grease and oils
  • kitty litter
  • dog and cat feces

Troubleshooting Chart:

Bad odour
(rotten egg smell)
  • not enough air
  • pile too wet
  • turn pile
  • add coarse material (straw, leaves)
Bad odour
(smells like ammonia)
  • too much green material
  • add carbon rich material (leaves, newspaper, dried grass)
Dry throughout
  • not enough water
  • too much woody material
  • turn pile and moisten materials
  • add fresh waste
  • cover pile
Damp and warm in middle but nowhere else
  • pile is too small
  • collect more material and mix with old ingredients
Damp and sweet smelling but will not heat up
  • lack of nitrogen
  • mix in fresh grass clippings or nitrogen fertilizer (46-0-0)
Pest infestation
(dogs, rodents, insects)
  • improper food scraps added
  • don't add meat, fat, bones or other animal waste
  • use rodent resistant compost bin
  • food scraps not covered
  • place fruit and vegetable scraps in middle of pile
  • cover with soil or other carbon rich material

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