It's Compost Time!

Getting Started

To get started with composting, follow these steps:

  • Pick a location and turn the soil.

  • Put composter down and cover floor with a layer of small branches to allow air movement and drainage.

  • Alternate wet (kitchen scraps) and dry (yard material) waste (see download).

  • To speed up composting add "finished" compost, garden soil or a compost starter (available at garden centres).

Composting Tips

These tips will help you get the best results from your composting setup:

  • Add small organic pieces and shredded weeds and trimmings.

  • Don't add thick layers of each waste. Grass shouldn’t be more than 6 cm deep, leaves up to 15 cm deep (cut or chop or dry and crumble them).To prevent compacting, dry grass first or mix it with dry, coarse material (leaves).

  • Contents should be moist like a wrung-out sponge. If the contents are too dry, it will take overly long to compost; and if too wet, the contents may begin to smell.

  • To keep compost well-aerated turn or mix contents every couple of weeks or each time you add new material.

  • Add materials in the winter. The composting process stops when the pile is frozen, so in the spring turn the pile thoroughly to reactivate the pile. Empty the composter in the fall to make room.


Here are some easy solutions to some common problems.

If your pile…

Doesn’t decrease in size or generate heat:

  • Add water to a dry pile - mix thoroughly.

  • Spread wet or muddy pile in the sun to dry it up.

  • Remember to save "old" compost to mix with incoming material.

Is damp and warm in the centre, but the rest is cold:

  • It may be too small. Keep as full as possible and mix new with old, dry with wet.

  • Break up mats and clumps.

Is damp and sweet smelling but doesn’t generate heat:

  • It needs nitrogen, so add grass clippings, table scraps, or a sprinkling of organic fertilizer (garden centre).

Has a foul odour:

  • It needs air – loosen up pile, break clumps, unblock vents, add wood chips to help the pile "breathe."

  • Turn pile to help aeration.

Cover composter to keep out animals. A wire mesh around the base may prevent pests from digging under the pile. Mix in or cover food waste immediately.

Is it Finished Yet?

CompostDepending on the materials used and the effort involved, composting can take from 2 months to 2 years.

Accelerate the process by keeping a balance between wet and dry material. Turn frequently and make sure waste is shredded or in small pieces.

Compost is ready when it is dark in colour, crumbly and has an "earthy" smell. Sift through compost and return any unfinished material back to the pile to complete its transformation into humus.

Put Compost to Good Use

Use it for all your landscaping needs. It increases soil's organic matter and its moisture-holding capacity.

Compost improves soil porosity and helps control soil erosion. It promotes plant and flower growth and helps plants develop strong roots.

You can add compost to your lawn (no thicker than 1 cm). You can add it to your houseplants or work it into your garden soil (no thicker than 8 cm). You can also make "compost tea" by soaking a burlap bag of compost in a large pail of water. The resulting water is nutrient rich for watering your garden.