Composting Basics

A Little Background...

Composting is not new. It has simply re-emerged in a more modern form as an environmentally beneficial thing to do. Nature has always done its own composting by the leaves and debris falling from trees in a forest for example. Rain adds the necessary moisture and animals drop food scraps here and there and eventually the ground has new nourish-enriched soil.

More and more people are seeing the wisdom in the process for their own use as huge plots of land are being used up for gigantic landfills which emit poisonous gases into air. Every piece of trash that you and I can keep from going to a landfill helps to reduce the overall burden. Recycling has become very popular. Composting is one of those recycling efforts.

Once you decide to compost, your next big decision is where and how. Do you have a large piece of land and want to do it in a far corner away from the house? Do you want to compost close to the house for convenience? Do you not have a yard and want to compost inside?

After making these initial descisions, then you are ready to choose a system that best fits your needs. Some examples are upright bins or tumbling composters that can be rolled around, or have cranks for stirring. Woodland Direct is proud to offer a broad variety of composters and composting acessories. Browse our Composting section, or call one of our knowledgeable salesmen at 800.919.1904 to find the perfect composter for you.

The Basic Elements of Composting:


Composting microbes need air to multiply and do their work. Some microbes do not need air but they tend to take over the pile and slowly turn it into a putrefying mass of garbage! So by keeping a good air supply, you speed up the process and keep down odor. Leaves, grass and paper tend to mat down and close off air circulation. Shredding the paper first is a good idea and then stirring or tumbling the mixture will help break it up and let air flow.


Your mixture should be as wet as a squeezed sponge to help feed the microbes. Too much water though will mat everything down and stop the air flow. Too dry and it will slow the process down too much. Vegetable and fruit items will add moisture. Things like straw and hay should be moistened before adding to the pile.


There are two basic types of “food” for composting and again a balance is needed. The browns tend to be bulky and are good for aeration. The greens are more moisture-laden and help to moisturize the browns.

These are dry and dead items such as leaves, twigs, and ashes. Because of their molecular structure, they are a source of energy for the process.
These are the “live” materials such as fruits and vegetables, green weeds coffee grounds, tea bags. These add nitrogen to the mix and are a protein source for the microbes.

Other Considerations:

  • Many believe that the mixture has to be hot to work. This is only partially true. A compost thermometer will ensure that temperatures at the center of the mix are adequate for proper decomposition. Good aeration, moisture, temperature and brown/green balance all contribute to the success of your compost.
  • If you live in a cold climate, don’t worry. The composting process will start back on its own when the weather is warmer. As long as the outside temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or more it will be processing.
  • The larger the pile, the more self-heat generation will take place in the center. Be sure to not overload your system. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • For an in-depth look at other composting variations and methods, see our other learning documents discussing Kitchen Composting, Worm Composting and Compost Tea.