How to Use Sawdust for Compost


With a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 500 to 1, sawdust must be composted along with other materials that provide the nitrogen needed for efficient composting. Dry or high-carbon materials such as sawdust provide an energy source for the microbes in a compost pile. The wet, or high-nitrogen, materials provide microbes with the protein necessary for growth and reproduction. Developing a compost pile with an appropriate balance of carbon and nitrogen will keep the microbe population high, ensuring efficient composting.

Step 1

Start the compost pile in a 10-foot-by-10-foot square area with a 6-inch layer of sawdust. Add a 2-inch layer of manure on top of the sawdust. Sprinkle ¼ inch of soil, which will add microbes to the pile, on top of the manure.

Step 2

Continue piling 6 inches of sawdust followed by 2 inches of manure and ¼ inch of soil until your compost pile is between 4 and 6 feet high. Allow the pile to sit four to six weeks.

Step 3

Turn and mix the pile as you transfer the contents to a new location near the current one. Try to pitch the material that has been on the outside of the pile near the center, where heat will help break it down more quickly.

Step 4

Turn the compost pile every six weeks until the compost is finished. Finished compost will have a dark color, an earthy smell and a crumbly texture.

Step 5

Cure the compost before using it. Allow the pile to rest one to two months to become stable. Curing will ensure that the compost does not compete with plants for available soil nutrients.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use black walnut sawdust on a compost pile, for it is toxic, according to the University of Arkansas. Avoid sawdust from pressure-treated lumber as well; it contains arsenic.

Things You'll Need

  • Sawdust
  • Manure (from chickens, cows, horses, sheep and/or rabbits)
  • Soil
  • Pitchfork


  • Mississippi State University: Composting of Wood Waste
  • Purdue University Extension: Household Composting
  • University of Florida: Florida's Online Composting Center
  • University of Arkansas: Composting
  • Texas A&M: Compost
Keywords: sawdust compost, composting with sawdust, sawdust for compost

About this Author

Ann Wolters, who has been a freelance writer, consultant, and writing coach for the past year and a half, has had her writing published in "The Saint Paul Almanac," and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a master’s degree in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota and taught English as a foreign language for nearly seven years.