How to start a simple compost bin

Bull Country compost

Ok, so the title might be a bit ambitious for what we are going to do, but why not shoot for the stars? We’ve all been there preparing dinner and you end up with all of those broccoli stems that no one likes to eat, or at breakfast, after you make a dozen sunny-side up eggs because you’re really terrible at flipping fried eggs, but you now have 12 egg shells what do you do with them?

Most people throw away their food scraps but have that little voice in your head saying there is something better for the environment that you could do with that instead of throwing it in a landfill.

But then they tell that voice to shut up and they fill the trash can anyway. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can silence that voice, lessen your garbage bill and create nutrient-rich soil for your gardens!

How do you accomplish all of this? Composting is the answer!

Do your part

Composting is the easiest way to do your part to help save your world. I’ll give you a few of the basics to start composting on your own and if you need a little more guidance, you can always contact your friendly soil and water conservation district for help!

So how do you start? You need a space that isn’t too sunny and isn’t too shady. Too much sun will dry up your compost and will kill the bacteria and microorganisms that breakdown the materials and your carrot that should take a few weeks to break down will take months!

You also don’t want it to be too shady or wet because that’s when things start to rot and no one wants a pile of rotting leaves and asparagus in their backyard. Then you need to think about the type of container you want to use.

Some people have a composting pile, which is literally just a pile without a container. Others use store-bought bins which work just fine, and others like to re-purpose pallets and build their own. The most important part of composting is the ratios of greens and browns.

Know the terms

I know I’m using a lot of technical terms but bear with me — I’ll explain! Greens are anything that have a higher nitrogen content. Nitrogen is a vital protein source for the compost microbes and helps speed up the process of decomposition.

Some example of greens are veggie scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds (and filters!), tea bags, pet and human hair as well as egg shells.

Browns are anything that is high in carbon, which is an energy source for the compost microbes. A few examples of browns are sawdust, paper, sticks, leaves and wood ashes.

No matter what your browns or greens are, the smaller you break down the stuff you are composting, the faster your browns and greens turn into compost. However, what you absolutely do not want to add is meat, oils and fats, dairy products and bones.

Now it’s not that these things won’t break down, but, they are going to attract pesky animals and smell horrific! So if you don’t want all of the area raccoons in your backyard, then keep those things out of your compost bin!

The best mix

You want a ratio of 2:1 of greens and browns, while layering your greens and browns as you start your compost bin. The compost will need to be turned every so-often to aid in the decomposition and get you to nutrient-rich soil so much faster than if you just let it go on its own!

So there are the basics of composting. With spring here, you can start your compost bin today and have awesome soil by the end of summer. You will also have less waste going into our landfills and that little guilty voice you hear, goes away!

At Belmont Soil and Water, we are very excited to start a composting program at a local juvenile detention center here in St. Clairsville. We recently received a grant from JB Green Team to implement a three-bin composting system.

With the implementation of this composting program, we are hoping that it will help these children take responsibility and ownership of the compost bins. Later on, once the compost bins are established, we are going to input raised bed gardens so they are able to eat the fruits of their labor.

We are estimating that through the implementation of this composting program we will be able to divert an estimated 10,950 pounds of food waste per year and 522 pounds of paper waste, away from the local landfills.

The impact of the composting program on the environment is measurable by pounds and percentages; however, the potential impact on the youth of this program is a seed that has been planted.


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Hannah Carpenter is the operations manager with Belmont Soil and Water Conservation District in St. Clairsville, Ohio. She can be reached at 740-526-0027, or by email at


  1. Hi! Yea I am a subscriber to the Farm and Dairy magazine of which I enjoy reading. Would like more info from areas I have served in the past but you all do a good job!!
    I read in my last issue of Chris Kick heading off to Iowa! His experience sounds so much like mine when I was interviewed back in 1991 to work for ISU after retiring from OSU in Columbus as an educator director in Lorain County. My job stated out in Union County as an educator for farm practices in the watershed of a large lake in said county. I then found an opening in Extension Director in Cedar County with ISU. I served there for 11 years before retiring as a County education Director. Great people there in Iowa! The farmers were great! I wish great success to Chris – he will like Ames and their aspirations for a greater Extension communions effort! Good Luck!!!


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