Liza Greis

Do-it-yourself projects and Home Decor

Composting 101 {+ FREE Printable}

It is spring time! That means I get to start up my gardening series again. Last year we covered starting seeds indoors, garden planning and crop rotation, weed control, gardening tools & supplies, and seeds saving. Today we are going to cover a new topic….COMPOST!



First up, let’s chat about types of compost bins…


Compost Bins

I have not composted on a large scale before and I am excited to do it this year. I have been researching it for years but just haven’t bit the bullet and started. My main reason for stalling is that our yard has been one wide open space and I wasn’t sure where to put it so that it wasn’t a huge eye sore.

This compost pile would blend right in! It is made from willow branches and is a great natural looking compost bin. The gaps would allow in oxygen which good compost needs. My fear is that it would not hold up long term especially when using a pitchfork to turn it. I do however have a bunch of willow branches so even if I don’t make a compost bin, I may make something similar for a fence or planter. I have one son in particular who would love to help!





This would be a fun DIY project. I could easily build a simple one like this.  My worry is similar in the sense that I am not sure how long wood will last. I worry the compost would speed up the decay of the wood. For those of you with wood compost bins, has this been an issue? How long have you had your wood compost bin?


compost bin



This next example is more expensive but I feel it would be easier to use and it would hold up longer. It isn’t exactly pretty, but we are building a short fence towards the back of our yard and whatever compost bin we end up choosing, would hide behind the fence. I like the idea of it being on a stand because you can just park your wheelbarrow next to it and dump!



Since the fence it will be hiding behind will be short (3 feet or maybe 4), I was thinking I might do this one since it is lower, but it does look harder to rotate and getting it from the bin to the wheelbarrow would be tougher. On the plus side, it holds a bit more.

I have also consider making some out of plastic totes or plastic garbage cans. Those that have done that have told me that stirring them is a pain. That has held me off on doing that DIY version. I would love to hear your thoughts though if you have done it this way!


90 gallon compost bin


The reasons I am leaning towards a closed bin are:

*Closed bins keep critters and flies away

*Closed bins smell less and are better for residential areas

*Closed bins compost faster due to the higher temps

*Closed bins can be used year round


Since I am new to this, I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


FREE Printable

I decided that I was going to print out a list of what to compost and put it in the kitchen so my kids would know what to add to the bin. As I was typing it out, I decided to make it cute and offer it to you as a free printable in case you wanted to stick it inside a kitchen cabinet door or on your fridge.



composting list - printable



 Helpful tips:

Of the things you compost, some are carbon based and some are nitrogen based. To have a healthy compost, you need more carbon than nitrogen. Things that have carbon are tree trimmings (branches), dried leaves, paper, sawdust, corn stalks, egg shells, wood ash. Examples of things that are nitrogen based are manures, green things, vegetable and fruit scraps. If your compost is soggy, it needs more carbon. If it starts to really stink, add more carbon.

Remember to not add meat, bones, or grease to the pile.

Be careful when composting weeds and hay. Make sure they have not gone to seed or you run the risk of them spreading when you add the compost to your garden. If your compost gets hot enough, it will not be an issue but if you are worried about this, don’t compost weeds to be on the safe side.

Only add wood ash. Ash from charcoal or coal have things that are toxic to plants in them.

Only add manure from herbivores. Never add dog or cat droppings.


For those of you who have been doing this for awhile, I would love to hear your experiences! Are there any tips or tricks you can share with us?







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  1. Sam | Away She Went says

    The timing of this post is perfect! We’ve been talking about composting for awhile now, but never got started. A couple weekends ago we found a composter at a garage sale for $20! I’m pretty sure it’s the exact same one as the one above that is on a stand and turns. Anyway, I’ve been looking for a printable so we have a reminder of what we can/can’t compost and this one is the best I’ve seen. I’m printing it now for our kitchen! Thanks and good luck with your composting!

  2. Jean C says

    I have a smallish bin, that I have used for a year+. I add to it all year round, even when it was freezing out, because when it thaws, it composts, and I don’t have to waste good compostables…The idea is to be able to put your wheelbarrow under it and dump, but it doesn’t work so well, because of the height and the door slides where the legs are.

    I love the idea of composting, but agree that the large wooden structures are more than I could handle. Plus my grandchildren enjoy throwing stuff in it and turning it. Give it a go.

  3. Patty says

    Thank you Liza for your valuable info on composting! I’ve always wanted a bin like yours on the stand. But I made do a very long time with bins I made from wood pallets held together with electrical wire. Not pretty, but they did the job! The pallets lasted years before needing replacement. Then I cut them up and they went into my green waste bin for municipal recycling.
    I have a question, would it not be better to add carbon products instead of nitrogen for wet or smelly compost?
    Keep those articles coming, I really enjoy them all!

    • Liza says

      Gah! Thanks for catching that. I typed out the wrong thing. I told my boys, “When in doubt, add more brown.” Maybe I should have stuck with that in the post :) It is good to know that the wood bins held up for so long. I’m still trying to decide…

  4. Julie Buck says

    I purchased a used compost bin pictured in your images, the round bin which turn. I just stated using it this spring and it is great. I noticed the garden items were not composting until I added the produce scraps. I have a book on composting to help guide me. I suggest beginners contact their local Extension office for help with composting from their Horticulture specialist or Master Gardeners. Now I just need sun to heat up the compost.

    • Patricia Gay says

      Way to go, Liza. I’ve had a compost pile in my backyard for about 10 yrs now. It works great & makes great garden soil. I bought mine from a garden supply store. It is made of plastic coated wire. It is square in shape. the four square sides were already hinged together when I bought it; only had to fasten hinges where two sides meet. It is about 3 ft. tall & ea. side is about 3 ft. across. The top is open and has a square tower structure ( about 5 in. x 5 in. x 5 in. x 5 in.) which sits in the middle to assist w/aeration. Turning the contents every so often w/ a pitchfork helps the compost mature more quickly. My nextdoor neighbor and I share the compost pile. She is knowledgeable about composting and has been a big help in educating me. Digging down deep to the bottom of the pile, we find the great, ready-to-use garden soil. Just a hint: you might want to think about working in your garden where you will be adding your compost. I’ve tried to avoid placing into the compost pile anything that might not break down rapidly or would be hard & scratchy when working in the soil. Thus, you might want to think twice about including pine cones, shrub clippings (soft leaves or tiny twigs o.k., but larger branches not so good), nut shells, corn stalks, or cardboard. Just a suggestion from experience. Fortunately, our city recycling program includes these not-so-desirable items; they pick them up (large plastic bins are available for residents to accumulate garden clippings, etc & place at curb for city to pick up – or – heavy wt. paper bags are also available) & the city staff grinds up contents to make mulch for city parks.

  5. Dilf4 says

    Any suggestions other than what I ve read above on what to do to get the process accelerated so I can start a non-acid based compost? Unfortunately, the only truly sunny place on my property is the front yard so I won t move the composter there! Thank you.

  6. Nikki Gwin says

    I have been composting for about 5 years now. Mine is open but smell, nor flies, nor critters have ever been a problem. I do get ant beds occasionally.
    Now I do agree that a closed bin would work faster. And mine isn’t what you’d call pretty. But its not hideous either. LOL
    But here is what works for me…. It takes about a year for my pile to cook. So the first year I just bought my compost to use and left my pile to cook. Meanwhile, I started a 2nd pile. The next year, my first pile was ready for me to use in my garden, while my 2nd pile built and then cooked. When my first pile was used up, I started my third pile, but since the first pile was gone, I never have more than 2 going at a time. One is cooking and one is building, after I use up the old one.
    :) gwingal.

    • sharon says

      I have two compost piles as well. One side gets all the compostables for the year, while the other side is “harvested” for that same year. Then vice versa. I am lazy and never even turn my compost piles. They just work at well this way.

  7. Cindy says

    As a long time composter, your third choice is the best. Very easy to use. You will definitely like the ease of turning the drum and it’s a lot easier to empty. I love mine.