Composting Tips

Frequently Asked Questions About Composting

We know you have questions about composting, so we’ve designed this page to help you. Also, you may email us with your questions (


What are the best organic materials for composting?

Kitchen wastes contain a great diversity of elements for healthy plant growth in a diverse garden. The majority of kitchen waste materials approach the ideal balance of carbon to nitrogen (approximately 25:1) essential to aggressive bacterial decomposition within the compost pile. (Avoid meat and meat by-products.)

While grass, weeds, garden clippings and leaves can be mixed in layers to achieve an active compost pile, the addition of kitchen wastes will provide additional trace elements, increasing the value of the resulting humus (compost) for your garden.
— The Rodale Book of Composting. Deborah L. Martin and Grace Gershuny, editors. Rodale Press, Inc., 1992.

What is the effect of sun and rain on the compost pile?

Sunlight does not play an active role in organic decomposition. However, a pile lacking moisture cannot sustain rapid bacterial growth. Gardeners may wish to position the composter where it will receive limited amounts of sunlight to better maintain optimum moisture levels.

Simple Composting Strategies Using Steve’s Earth Engine

Removable slats and two bins make composting easy!

Strategy 1: Transfer Method

Select a bin and create an organic mix by adding to the pile continuously. After 4-6 weeks, “turn” the pile into the second bin with a garden fork. This will reorganize newer materials to the bottom where they can decompose more rapidly and bring partially decomposed bottom material to the top of the pile. (Additional “turning” within the pile is optional.)

Homogeneous, black humus (compost) is garden-ready in 8-10 weeks (seasonal and climatic variations could affect the length of time). A second pile can be started at any time after the first transfer.

Strategy 2: Separate Piles in Separate Bins

Addition and “turning” of organic material occurs separately in both bins. With two large piles to maximize use of the composter, “turning” is accomplished by rotating the upper third of each pile. Highest materials are rotated to lower levels to become part of the more active organic mass.

Materials are recycled within 6-8 weeks (allowing for seasonal climatic variations).

Strategy 3: Add to the Pile and Cover with a Little Earth

A substantial compost heap will yield the same rich results over an extended period of time. When spring arrives, allow the pile to “cook down” for a few weeks before removing the upper layer of semi-composted material. The “black gold” is waiting below.