Looking for compost info?  You’ve come to the right place! Over time, any pile of organic matter will eventually decompose. Materials that are deprived of adequate airflow decompose anaerobically. These decomposing materials feel slimy and smell awful. Aerobic decomposition, on the other hand, yields sweet-smelling and evenly-moist compost. Follow these practices to encourage aerobic decomposition in your compost bin:

General Guidelines

  • Don’t overwater. Compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge. You can lower moisture levels if necessary by adding dry brown material to the mix.
  • Turn the pile regularly (at least every other week) in order to aerate the soil.
  • Break down larger materials into smaller pieces. This speeds the decomposition process.

Compost Materials

Organic matter is classified as either “brown” or “green.” These terms refer to a material’s carbon to nitrogen ratio, which determines how quickly or slowly a material breaks down. Use these guidelines when adding material to your compost bin:

  • Maintain a ratio of 3 parts brown matter to 1 part green matter (see below).
  • Collect brown matter in one of the bins if you’re using a 3-bin system, or next to your bin if you only have a single bin.
  • Collect kitchen scraps. If you plan to visit the compost bin only once a week or less, you may consider keeping the scraps in your freezer to minimize fruit flies and odor.

Using the Bin

When you are ready to add green matter to the pile, first place a layer of brown matter on the pile and arrange it into a bowl shape. Dump the green matter into the bowl, then cover it with another layer of brown. (This will reduce the number of rodents visiting the pile.) A well-monitored pile should be ready in 3 – 4 months. When it’s time to harvest, remove the large debris that rises to the top of the pile and scoop the fine, rich compost from the bottom. Always wear gloves when handling compost.

Download a printable PDF: Composting

More compost and soil info is available on our Grow Pittsburgh website.