Compost Basics


 1. Compost = Managed Decomposition

Compost happens, but…the process may happen quicker if it’s managed and visited more often. What is most important is to design a system that fits into your lifestyle. It takes as much, or as little work as you want to put into it. Consider where you place your bin and if you plan on turning, or having a static pile. Purchasing a compost thermometer to monitor temperature swings is well worth the investment.


Basics & Benefits of Composting (PDF)

Home Composting Brochure (PDF)

PowerPoint for Educational Use:


2. Balance by observing WONC

(Water, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon)

Most composting issues come from an imbalance of Water/Oxygen or Nitrogen/Carbon content. The vast majority of smells, rodent problems, etc are because of a LACK of enough dry, dead, BROWN material. For every unit of green material (fresh scraps) THREE TIMES the amount should be added in brown material (leaves, straw, sawdust, shredded newspaper)


Lasagna Compost Factsheet:

Troubleshooting Factsheet:


3. You can compost anything biological, but…

It is not recommended to compost items such as meat, dairy, oils, pet wastes, in a small- scale system. These are considered “advanced” items and are only safe in larger scale operations or home systems where a constant, HOT temperature is maintained. (50°C (122° F) for 24 hours, 46°C (115°F) for a week??) ACTIVE, thermophillic compost occurs between 104 – 160 degrees.


Health and Safety Guidance for Small Scale Composting:


4. The size and type of system depends on user and desired outcome

There is no “right” or perfect composting system. In order to reach and maintain thermophilic temperatures, a volume of at least one cubic yard needs to be attained. However, larger systems will produce compost more efficiently. There are as many composting systems out there as there are people who want to use them and all of them can successfully make compost. Many factors, such as feedstocks, space, time and energy, season, etc., will dictate what system will work best in each situation. 


Composting at Home – The Green and Brown Alternative

Designs for Composting Systems

Welded Wire Compost Bin:

Vermicomposting Basics:


Other recommended resources and links

Composting at Home – The Green and Brown Alternative

Is it Done Yet? – Simple tests for knowing if compost is complete:



S. Gabriel,, 2.27.12, reviewed by J Bonhotal,  M Schwarz, 2.29.12


VIDEO: Vermicompost

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