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How to Use a Compost Bin

A compost bin is a receptacle used to hold compost during the compost-making process. Compost bins may be simple in design or fancy and complex. Regardless of the design, all compost bins serve the same basic purpose of holding the compost while it forms. Some bins tumble to redistribute the compost within the bin and some bins are stationary and a gardener must stir the compost within the bin.

Place your compost bin in a convenient location where you will easily be able to access the compost when it is finished curing. A location that is near your growing areas and near an outdoor hose would be an ideal place to set up a compost bin.

Add the brown compost ingredients (the carbon content) to the compost bin first. Place 8 to 10 inches of brown compost ingredients into the bottom of the compost bin. Brown ingredients include dried leaves, sawdust, pine needles and newspaper. Add water to the brown ingredients and stir them with the garden spade to incorporate the water throughout all of the brown ingredients.

Pour approximately 2 inches of green compost ingredients (the nitrogen content) to the compost bin. Green ingredients include kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, grass clippings and manure. Saturate the green compost ingredients with water.

Mix all of the ingredients well with the garden spade.

Add more brown ingredients and green ingredients in the same ratio if your compost bin will hold more material. Saturate each layer with water as you add each layer. Continue adding more ingredients until your compost bin is almost full. Add one shovel-full of prepared compost to the bin to help the composting process begin.

Stir the ingredients one more time and close the bin. Allow it to sit for two to three days and then open it. If the amount of material has decreased, add another layer of both brown and green ingredients to fill it up again. Cover the compost bin.

Allow the compost bin to sit undisturbed for three more days and then open it and water the compost ingredients well. Stir the ingredients with the garden spade. If you have a rotating compost bin, rotate it. Close the compost bin again and allow it to sit again for three more days. Repeat this two more times for a total of nine days of sitting time with stirring and watering in between.

Keep the compost bin enclosed for the next two months. Open it once per week to stir the ingredients or rotate it once per week. Check the compost after two months to determine if it is ready to use. Compost that has sufficiently cured is dark, crumbly and smells of the earth.


When creating your compost mixture, most experienced gardeners try to create a ratio of 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. This means that most of your compost ingredients should be brown ingredients, with just a little green ingredients added to facilitate decomposition. The closer your compost ratio is to this recommendation, the faster the compost will form. Sawdust has very high carbon content and dried leaves have considerably lower carbon content. Manure has higher nitrogen content than kitchen scraps or grass clippings.

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