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What is Compost?

Benefits of Composting

Using Finished Compost

Compost & Nutrition


Composting Systems

Siting Your Compost Area



What to Compost

Stages of Composting

The Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio

Compost Activators

Turning Your Compost


Quick Start Guide

The Add-as-you-go Pile

The Batch Pile

Grass Clippings

Food Scraps

Leaves, Weeds &
Garden Debris

Compost Tea

Worm Composting


Troubleshooting Guide

Ask Professor Rot



Professor Rot says:

If you just can't wait to get your compost pile going, then this Quick Start Guide will help.

However, make sure you educate yourself about other important decisions in order to compost well at home.


So, you are all excited about home composting! You've decided to do your part in saving up to 35% of your compostable kitchen and yard waste from going to the landfill. That's great!

This website gives you loads of information about how to easily compost at home. Whether you skipped the basics or not, there is nothing like that feeling of wanting to get a compost pile going.

compost cartoonMost composting at home requires a few tools. Some you may already have in your garden shed or garage; other tools are more specialized to composting and you might desire to acquire them later. Here's some basic items necessary to easily compost at home:

  • A compost bin (manufactured or homemade) to hold the organic material you are composting
  • A garden hose with spray nozzle to moisten your pile
  • A shovel or pitchfork to place waste material into the bin
  • A compost aerator to turn your compost (a shovel or pitchfork will do, but they are labor-intensive; good luck using them in the popular manufactured bins with smaller top openings)
  • A kitchen scraps pail (and possibly a couple of 4-5 gallon buckets in which to stockpile your food scraps before throwing them into the compost bin)
  • Optional: compost activator, compost thermometer, a couple of Snickers candy bars

In this Quick Start Guide, we are giving you the stripped down version of two styles of composting in your compost bin: The Add-as-You-Go Pile and the Batch Pile. Please click on their links to learn more about each method. Of course, there are other ways to compost and you can learn about these in Composting Systems.


The ADD-AS-YOU-GO Compost Pile

add as go pileThere is nothing like throwing your waste in a waste recepticle and then getting on with your day. Heck, that pretty much sums up our way of life! But now you want to demonstrate you are a planetary citizen doing your part to recycle your waste.

The Add-as-You-Go Pile (aka Dump-and-Run) is your ticket to recycle your kitchen and yard waste and then move on with your day. But there is a price to pay: the decomposition process takes longer because the pile does not heat up all that much. Still in all, most people compost at home using this method. Just follow the 3 Steps below. For more thorough instructions and troubleshooting tips, see the Add-as-You-Go Pile.

quick start compost guide

From Home Composting Made Easy by C. Forrest McDowell, PhD & Tricia Clark-McDowell
4th edition Copyright © 2007 by the authors


The BATCH Compost Pile

If you desire to be a little more dedicated in your composting efforts, you are a good candidate for composting using the Batch Pile method. This approach takes a little more planning. You simply don't Dump-and-Run. Instead, you make a batch of compost all at once, most likely using stockpiled items such as leaves, yard debris and food waste.

batch bin pileThe Batch Pile almost guarantees that the organic material will heat up, thereby decomposing faster. The 6 Steps shown below will get you going. For more thorough instructions, see The Batch Pile as well as Stockpiling

Most people who use this method soon discover a couple of things: their finished compost is more broken down, and they long for another bin or two (the reason is because they stockpile more ingredients for another Batch Pile, but the first pile may not be entirely finished. The solution: plan for 2-3 bins in your home composting system).

Photo by Karim Nice

fast start compost guide

From Home Composting Made Easy by C. Forrest McDowell, PhD & Tricia Clark-McDowell
4th edition Copyright © 2007 by the authors

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