Composting 101

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

What is composting?

Composting is nature’s recycling system. When you compost, you keep the compostable material that makes up 30% of the waste stream out of the landfills and return natural nutrients back into the soil. Anything that was once living can be added to a compost bin. Composting in schools is a hands-on way to teach children about the cycle of life.


Do’s and Don’ts of Composting

Composting isn’t too tricky once you get the hang of it, but there are a few basic rules. In order to have a healthy compost, there needs to be a balance of “brown” and “green” materials. Brown materials, like dead leaves and branches, provide carbon for your compost and should make up about 1/3 of your pile. Green materials, like grass clippings and kitchen scraps, provide nitrogen for your compost and should make up 2/3 of your pile. It is also important that you water your compost to help aid the breakdown of organic materials. Turn your compost every few weeks to aerate the pile.

Do compost…

Don’t Compost…

Browns (Carbon)

Greens (Nitrogen)

Coal or charcoal ash
Leaves Fruit and vegetable scraps Dairy products
Straw or hay Grass clippings Fats, greases, lards, or oils
Pine needles Garden weeds Meat or fish bones and scraps
Wood ash Flowers Pet wastes
Newspaper (avoid colored inks and glossy paper) Seaweed Yard trimmings treated with pesticides
Shredded paper Manure
Cardboard Coffee grounds and filters
Corn cobs and stalks Tea bags
Dryer lint House plants



Many of these compostable materials can be found in student snacks or lunches, or brought in from home to keep your pile healthy.

How to Know When Your Compost is Ready

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It can take anywhere from a few months to a year for your compost to be ready (you can add some red wiggler worms to speed up the process if you’re getting impatient). When it is ready, it should be crumbly and look and smell like very dark soil. At this point, you can add the compost to your garden.

Good luck!


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