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Hands sift through compost ready for use


You've heard about composting, maybe talked to your friends about it. But, you don't know how to get started? We've got you covered, with our five-step tutorial to turn organic wast to compost. Click any step below to learn more (show all steps).

1. What is composting?

Composting is the biological decomposition of organic wastes by bacteria, fungi, worms and other organisms under controlled conditions where oxygen is available.

Decomposers are not much different than people in terms of their basic needs, so be sure to provide your microbes with all of the basics:

Food Browns (carbon-rich) and
greens (nitrogen-rich)
Water Moist, not soggy
Air Oxygen
Volume Cube: 3 feet long x 3 feet high x 3 feet deep
Cylinder: 3 feet high x 3–5 feet diameter
Particle size Less than 2–3 inches
2. What can I compost?

Anything that was a plant. All plant materials contain nitrogen and carbon. Materials high in nitrogen are called "greens", e.g. grass clippings, manure, and kitchen scraps. Materials high in carbon are called "browns", e.g. leaves, sawdust, and wood chips. Before adding materials to the compost bin, chip or shred items so they are no more than 2-3 inches long.

3. Where do I compost?

Most people compost in a bin, which in Florida may be located in the shade or partial sun. A bin is not necessary, but helps keep the materials contained and neat. Your bin can be cubed, approximately 3 feet on each side, or a 5-foot diameter hoop of hardware wire. Place equal volumes of greens and browns in the compost bin. You can layer 3- to 4-inch layers of greens and browns (finish with a brown layer on top to hold down odors). Water the compost as you build the bin.

4. I've built the pile; now what?

The compost may heat up due to biological activity and will certainly settle as the materials decompose. To speed up the process, "turn" the compost bin periodically. Turning means taking everything out of the bin and then putting it back. Try to move the materials from the outer sides to the center.

You may add more materials at any time. Bury food wastes in the center of the pile or cover with brown materials such as leaves. You can also start a new bin for handling additional materials.

5. When is compost ready to use?

The compost is finished and ready to use when it has a uniform look (like soil), dark color, small particle size, and "earthy" odor. Most of the materials you put in will no longer be recognizable. Use finished compost as a mulch, soil amendment, or potting soil.

You have now completed the quick tutorial. The "What Is Composting?" section in the navigation menu to the right of this page can help you find more specific information by topic, or visit our "Learn More" or "Quiz/FAQ" pages.