Starting a Compost Pile or Worm Bin

Follow these steps and you'll discover starting a compost pile, with or without worms, is a pretty straightforward proposition.

  • starting a compost pile - log compost bin
    A log bin isn't strictly necessary when starting a compost pile, but it will allow for air circulation.
    Photo by Judy White/

  • starting a compost pile - log compost bin

Compost helps plants grow better by improving the soil’s structure and water-holding capacity, and by increasing the supply of nutrients the soil provides for your plants. Regular applications of compost also help prevent plant diseases by making your plants healthier.

Starting a Compost Pile

1. Set a commercial or homemade composter on the ground in an easily accessible place. For a simple and inexpensive open bin, make a circle about 3 or 4 feet in diameter out of 3-to-4-foot-high welded wire or plastic garden fencing.

2. Add ingredients. Place a 4 inch layer of stemmy plants, sticks, or other coarse material in the bottom of the bin. As they become available, add kitchen wastes, dead plants, grass clippings and chopped leaves to the bin. Add water as often as needed to keep the material moist but not soggy (like a wrung-out sponge).

3. Turning the pile is helpful but optional. If you choose to turn, lift off the composter or bin and set it next to the pile. Then use a pitchfork to move the pile back into the composter.

4. The compost is ready to use when you can no longer recognize the original ingredients. Until you use it in your garden, keep your finished compost covered to prevent rain from leaching out nutrients.

Good Compost Ingredients:
Leaves, hay and other dead plant material
Fruit and vegetable trimmings
Herbicide-free grass clippings
Manure from horses, cattle, goats, poultry and rabbits
Paper or cardboard, torn into strips or hand-sized pieces 

2/13/2019 8:37:18 PM

I have the usual, four-sided with a lid, black, plastic, bin. It never heated up so I got some red wigglers for it. I got good vermicompost out of it. I split the bin when I had enough worms and put half of the worms back. One day while feeding the compost bin worms I noticed a void in the pile. Thinking that the worms had eaten their food and left the void, I went merrily along my way. (Looking back, there was no way my worms could have done that) The next time I noticed more voids and no worms. Hysterical, I ran to the Google and found out that moles and shrews eat worms just like mine. I did find one half of a worm. Now, my three worm bins are in tubs. I can still hear the worms screaming for their lives and will have to live with that forever.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters