Composting Styles & Techniques


Composting can be an active or fairly casual process. 

How you can get started:

  • Pick Out Your Bin: You can build a stationary bin yourself out of recycled materials or those found at your local hardware store or purchase a commercial version. Various options and sizes are widely available and affordable. Options include stationary bins and tumbler bins shaped like a drum that rotate to help aerate your pile and toss the contents. Keep in mind you can have multiple bins and types of compost piles!

Creating Compost:

  • What Goes In: Healthy compost requires the right ratio of carbon to nitrogen, water and air. Carbon sources include browns like dry leaves, straw, hay, shredded newspaper, and sawdust. Nitrogen sources include greens like dried out weeds, grass clippings (without roots), biodegradable tea bags, coffee grounds, and veggie leftovers. Other good additions are ground egg shells, fruits and peels. 
  • What Stays Out: Stay away from adding meats, dairy, pet waste (manure is fine) or cooked leftovers to your compost as this can attract unwanted scavenging visitors or create an unhealthy compost mixture.

Styles & Techniques:

  • Fast & Active Pile: If you want to create compost at a fast pace you will need to pay more attention to the internal temperature, toss the contents frequently (every few days), and water and cover the pile with both organic waste and dry yard scraps. Ideally, the center of your bin should reach internal temperature of 150-160 degrees F. This will turn out compost in as few as 8 weeks. 
  • Slow & Steady Pile: If you are in no rush you can leave this compost pile alone and let nature take its course. There is no need to pay much attention to the compost except to fill your bin up and cover the contents. This casual style of composting takes 6 months to a year to yield compost. Keep in mind that weeds may find a way into your compost pile as the internal temperature is lower if this is a nuisance just pull out the weeds. 
  • How to Do It Indoors: Vermicomposting can be ideal for apartment dwellers or small offices that want the benefits of composting and reduced organic waste. You’ll need: worms, worm bedding like shredded newspaper or cardboard, and a container. 
    • What to Expect: This bin uses red worms, not the typical garden worms you would find in the ground. Over the course of 3-4 months the worms will break down your food scraps, producing highly nutritious organic matter also known as casting. Continue to “feed” the worms your organic scraps by putting wastes in a different corner of your bin as often as desired and covering it with bedding.
    • Next Steps for the Bin: After 3-4 months of gorging, your worms will need to rest about 4 weeks. View this composting photo gallery for what to expect and to see what to do after collecting the casting. In the meantime, use the compost to enhance your soil, garden beds and the juice as fertilizer for the garden and indoor plants. 
    • Learn more about the benefits of vermicomposting by watching the video “Vermicompost: a Living Soil Amendment” from the Cornell Waste Management Institute.


Find out more about composting basics from EPA and common composting questions from Recycle Now.