Got questions?
Ask Sara!

Send email to



Compost is rich, porous soil made of thoroughly decomposed matter. It is the best ingredient for building a good soil. The words compost pile can run the gamut from a heap of rotted food, wood shavings, or weeds in the back corner of a yard to a scientifically layered pile of various organic material placed in an elaborate container of wood, fiberglass, or cement blocks. Bins are available at garden centers and come in several sizes. You can make your own out of wooden slats and/or chicken wire, but I like the system I am going to describe here. I have two bins side by side, sharing a wall. It is of cinder blocks with holes, 3' high and about 6' square. In one are table scraps, garden wastes, weeds, leaves, and grass clippings with layers of soil and layers of manure in between. The heap soon fills up with earthworms, which helps the material to settle and decompose. As soon as one bin is full, I cover it with grass clippings and leaves, and I start the second bin. It takes about a year for it to decompose nicely. What is not finished, I leave to compost some more.

You can start your pile with 6" of yard and kitchen waste. Do not use bones or meat scraps. Add a 2" layer of soil and/or manure on top. Continue alternating layers of waste and soil.You can add lime to the layers to speed up decomposition. Turn the pile once a month with a pitchfork or shovel. This helps everything break down faster. The pile also needs moisture, so make sure the top of the pile is concave to catch rainwater. During decomposition, the center of the pile will heat up to as much as 150F. This temperature is high enough to kill microorganisms and diseases that may be in your yard waste. The compost is ready to use when all the elements are completely decomposed.