Nutrient density starts with the soil. Nourish the soil food web by creating fertility from waste.

Sketch of the Life Cycle of Compost 

Compost Ingredients

Nitrogen Materials (N): coffee/tea grounds • food scraps • fresh grass clippings • hair • manure • weeds

Carbon Materials (C): cotton rags • dryer lint • leaves • newspaper • paper products • sawdust • straw • wood chips


small bucket or container with a lid • pitchfork/shovel
optional: tarp or infrastructure for collection area • comfrey leaves


  1. Designate a compost area in your yard that can store at least 3 cubic feet of material.
  2. Collect nitrogen materials. A small bucket or container with a lid works well for food scraps.
  3. Add scraps to compost area and cover with carbon materials. By weight, the ideal C:N ratio is about 30:1. By volume, we recommend starting with equal amounts of C:N, and adjust as you see how the pile responds. For instance, an armload of dried leaves might offer the same amount of carbon as a handful of sawdust.
  4. Cover pile with a tarp to keep out animals and prevent rain from rinsing out nitrogen.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 till the pile is about 3 feet in length/width/height. If available, periodically mix in comfrey leaves. Add water to keep up moisture levels, keeping the pile like a damp sponge. Once the pile is the desired size, stop adding new materials.
  6. Turn the pile on a periodic basis to suit your schedule. Ensure the inner core of the pile exchanges places with the outside of the pile during each turning.

Time to Completion and Turning Rates

18 Days
Turn every other day for 18 days.

9 Months
Turn initially and at 90/180 days.

12 Months
Rest pile, no turning.

Using Finished Compost

Bring life to inert soils by spreading ¼ inch of finished compost. Or apply thickly as a topdressing in garden production areas. Thank you for restoring vitality to our living world.

Compost restores structure and nutrients to the soil, increases the ability of plants to absorb minerals, and boosts biodiversity among beneficial bacteria, fungi, and microfauna in the garden.

At Washington College, students can compost food scraps as part of our commitment to zero waste. We support the student-led Compost Club that manages a compost collection area at the campus garden and trains community members in different methods of composting. We’re working to increase organics recycling access on campus and promote composting in the region. 

Dirt! The Movie
Empowering documentary about the importance of soil. (2009)

The Biggest Little Farm
Inspiring documentary about healing land to grow food and raise consciousness about life processes. (2019)

Wasted! The Story of Food Waste
A cheerful documentary about how one third of all food grown for human consumption is discarded each year. (2017)

Worms Eat My Garbage How to establish home vermicomposting. Mary Appelhof (1982)

Dirt to Soil
A story of how one family looked to nature to restore the landscape with animals. Gabe Brown (2018).

The Rodale Book of Composting
Guide for gardeners and home practitioners. Edited by Grace Gershuny (2018)

Community-Scale Composting Systems
A reference for setting up composting programs and infrastructure for organizations. James McSweeney (2019)

The Humanure Handbook
A deep dive into the biology of human waste and how to set up sanitary systems. Joseph Jenkins (2019)

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
The story of human progress and decline in relation to soil health. David R. Montgomery (2012)

Holistic Management
The book that launched an international revival in regenerative agriculture. Allan Savory (1999)

Finished compost is rich with life and bioavailable nutrients for plants to turn into food.Finished compost is rich with life and bioavailable nutrients for plants to turn into food.
A salvaged bucket fits inside a kitchen drawer or cabinet for easy food scrap collection.A salvaged bucket fits inside a kitchen drawer or cabinet for easy food scrap collection.

soil cyclesThe soil food web is a constant cycle of decompositon and reanimation.