Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Compost With Straw

Composting typically involves layering ‘green’ materials, such as organic kitchen scraps, with ‘brown’ materials that include straw or dead leaves. For larger tracts of land, a compost area may be formed by straw bales. The bales initially contain the compost pile and can then be mixed into the compost during the process. These materials are left to decompose into a crumbly black soil that is nutrient-rich and disease resistant.

Lay six bales to form a box. Position two bales end to end to form both the front and back walls, one bale length apart. Position the remaining two bales between those walls, forming the side walls. Keep the bales bound.

Lay the remaining three bales to form a second layer on the back half of the existing bale layer. Center one bale on the back wall. Flank with remaining bales, laid perpendicular to the first bale. This should create a stagger on the abutted corner seams of the bales, like the corners of a brick building, forming a more solid structure.

Collect 'green' material such as kitchen scraps, grass clippings, garden wastes and clover, and 'brown' ingredients such as hay, additional straw, sawdust and dead leaves.

Layer green and brown materials in a ratio of 6 parts brown matter to 1 part green matter.

Turn the material with a garden fork repeatedly to speed up the process of decomposing.

Allow the material to break down for three to four months.

Break open the bales of straw and mix all of the straw with the decomposed compost.

Wait two more months to allow the straw to decompose.

Transfer compost as needed to selected sites. Turn the compost into the soil to a depth of 1 to 3 inches using a rototiller.


Do not use dairy, meat, oil or fat materials in your compost. Do not compost seeds, weeds and perennial plants.

Garden Guides