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Composting Properly in Your Own Home

May 4, 2015

Composting extends farther than where which pale to dump the trash from lunch. If done properly, composting can turn trash into food for soil, reduce the waste in landfills and contribute to an overall healthier environment.


It can be intimidating at first. How do I layer my compost so it breaks down properly? Should my compost smell like my garbage?


Here are some tips, facts and suggestions on how to begin composting.


  • Layering is key. Starting off with a bed of straw or leaves will allow for the compost pile to aerate. This step is crucial to a successful compost pile. Layering what are called browns should go over the straw or leaves. Browns are any materials high in carbon: Sawdust, paper, cardboard, tea bags and eggshells are some examples of brown composting materials. After browns, pile the greens. Greens contain heavy amounts of nitrogen. Some greens are vegetable peelings, grass clipings, seaweed, manure, coffee grounds and — yes, I’m being 100 percent serious with the next one — human urine. Greens speed up the process of decomposition. Continue alternating between browns and greens for your compost pile. For a breakdown of the proper ratios, check out Home Composting Made Easy’s post about it.
  • Give your compost pile air by stirring it. Air aids in the process of decomposition, which is why it’s key to aerate the bottom of the compost pile. Using an old broom stick, dowel or other large stick you don’t mind getting dirty, stir the compost pile once every few days or once a week.
  • Compost shouldn’t smell. If your compost smells rancid, it’s likely the pile is not aerated or layered properly. Try mixing it more or adding more greens to help the pile further decompose.
  • It takes about two to six months for a pile to decompose. The speed at which it decomposes greatly depends on what is in the pile. The more greens, the faster it will decompose. Waiting for the pile to decompose before using it on soil is key to proper composting.


There is far more to explore when it comes to composting, and these are only some of the interesting tips and facts to explore.

~ Christie Citranglo

*** If you are interested in gardening with us, we are at the Ithaca College Permaculture Garden — located in the Southeastern corner of Williams Hall — every Friday afternoon from 12:15–1:15 p.m. Shoot us an email if you have any questions at ***

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