International Compost Awareness Week: How to Start Composting Right Now

composting binHappy International Compost Awareness Week! Always the first week of May, ICAW was created to showcase how composting can benefit everyone in their daily lives, from households to businesses to rural communities to bustling cities. When combined in the right way, everyday waste materials such as leaves, shredded paper, wood chips, grass clippings, leftover vegetables and fruits and certain animal waste decompose into a nourishing, organic fertilizer.

The perks of composting are numerous. Composting not only helps you reuse waste in a way that can enrich your soil, but it can also help you clean up polluted soil. Applying compost to contaminated soil helps degrade potentially hazardous chemicals found in soil such as heating fuels, pesticides and chlorinated and non-chlorinated hydrocarbons. Also, composting deflects waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. To boot, composting can save on water, commercial fertilizer and other materials typically used to maintain the landscape. In honor of the occasion, we at Keep Scottsdale Beautiful are sharing how you can easily start your own composting system.

First things first, get a composting bin. While there are many composters on the market you can also build your own using wood, chicken wire, tarp and other commonly found materials. The ideal size for a composting bin is 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet. Place the bin in an area where you’d like to start planting so that the nutrients from the compost will seep into the ground, helping to nourish the area.

Start with about a four-inch layer of “brown” material such as shredded newspaper, dead leaves, sawdust or wood chips. As these items decompose, they emit carbon, an important part of the composting process. Next, add a one-inch layer of “green” material, which can include grass clippings, leftover vegetables or fruits or cow manure. These items release nitrogen during composition which, when combined with the carbon, react to create a rich fertilizer. Continue layering brown and green material until the bin is full, ending on a brown layer. Avoid adding meet, dairy, grease, oil and petting droppings. These animal products tend to attract pests and vermin. Chop larger pieces into smaller pieces for faster and easier composting.

Within three to four months, your composting pile should be ready to apply to your soil. When finished, your composting should look like fine, rich soil. For best results, add composting to soil about two to three weeks before you plant.Maintain your compost pile by keeping it warm, damp and aerated to help the decomposition process. Make sure your composting pile is covered to trap in heat. Regularly spray the pile to keep it moist but not wet. Using a pitchfork or shovel, move materials trapped at the bottom to the top. Also, keep adding materials in 4:1 ratio (brown to green) to the pile as space becomes available.

And that’s about all there is to it. Composting requires just a little bit to started and only minutes per day on average to maintain. Plus, you’re reusing waste in a way that will help your landscape look its best. What more could you want?

For a recap, here’s a breakdown of what you should and shouldn’t add to your compost pile:

Green Materials (1:4 ratio to brown materials)

  • Grass & Plant Clippings
  • Fresh Landscape Trimmings
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit Peels
  • Coffee Grounds & Tea Bags
  • Egg Shells
  • Cactus


Brown Materials (4:1 ratio for green materials)

  • Dry Leaves & Twigs
  • Dry Plant & Grass Clippings
  • Straw & Hay
  • Sawdust & Wood Chips
  • Dryer Lint & Pine Needles
  • Soiled or Nonrecyclable Paper
  • Paper towels, Plates & Napkins


Do Not Compost

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Grease or Oil
  • Pet Droppings