Fine Gardening Project Guides

Gardening Basics

Guide Home
Kitchen Gardening

Gardening Tips: 5 Tips to Start Composting

Great gardening advice from our readers

starting a compost pile

We compiled these five tips on how to start composting to help people create their own composting projects. From small gardens to big gardens, everyone can compost! Learn what our readers have found works for them, including how to use a common weed to create an awesome nutritional tea for your garden. If you need basic information on how to begin a compost bin, check out this article on beginning to compost.

1. Pallet compost bin

You can buy compost bins for $50 or more, but I get the same results for free. Get six pallets (your local lumberyard is likely to give you pallets just to get rid of them), then lay one down for the foundation, wire four together for the sides, and set one aside for the lid. To help aerate the bin, I prop a 4-foot length of PVC drain tile in the center. I keep three bins: one for accepting materials, one for working, and one for yielding compost. Sam Brown, Edinboro, Pennsylvania, Issue 69.

composting pile with wooden barrier around it
Photo by Dustin Larimer under CC license 2.0.


2. Make compost under pavers

I don’t have a compost pile because my yard is small, but I have found a great way to make compost in small amounts without making an unsightly mess. I have concrete pavers in many garden areas so that I don’t step on plants or compact the soil. Under the pavers, I dig holes and fill them with plant trimmings, grass, and autumn leaves. The pavers hold down the foliage and mark the spot for future reference.

Some time later, when I need some especially good soil, I lift up a paver and dig out nice, rich, composted earth. Then I refill the hole with fresh organic material to make more compost. Also, if I’m desperate to find a home for a new plant, I can remove a paver and put the plant in the spot, with good soil already in place.

Patricia Skoul
Wilmette, Illinois
Issue 74

3. Small-scale compost

Making good compost in small outdoor spaces is feasible. On the porch of my third-floor apartment, I make compost in a flower pot. I use a 12-to-18-inch-high plastic pot with drainage holes and a saucer to catch the drips. I cover the pot to keep it from drying out in the sun or becoming saturated from too much rain. The cover also gives me the option of setting a flowering plant on top of the container, thereby transforming my compost into a plant stand.

Miniature container compost decomposes without heating up, but otherwise it follows the same principles as regular composting, without the need to use a pitchfork to turn the pile. I start with an absorbent base of leaves and shredded newspaper, mix in the trimmings and kitchen scraps as I have them, and keep the miniature pile damp. Every few weeks, I put on rubber gloves and turn the compost by tossing it as I would toss a salad. Within a season, I have a small batch of compost to add to my porch garden. Aurelia C. Scott, Portland, Maine, Issue 79.

4. A smoothie for the compost pile

I keep an old blender under the sink to fill with vegetable scraps, eggshells, and tea bags. The rubber seal on the lid prevents odors. When the container is full, I add water, blend, and then pour it into my compost tumbler. This “compost smoothie” adds needed moisture to the compost pile during the summer, and processing the material speeds the composting cycle. Tracy Harkins Ross, Hillsboro, Oregon, Issue 96.Easy Compost Smoothie

5. Use netting to sift compost

Flexible netting, such as that used to protect plants from deer damage, is the perfect compost sifter. I cut a piece slightly larger than my wheelbarrow. I then lay it over the wheelbarrow, shovel in the compost, and shake it. The finest compost sifts through, while the bigger pieces are left in the bundle, ready to be dumped back into the compost pile for further decomposition. Because the netting is unobtrusive, I can leave it near the compost bin, ready for its next use. Janet Trezza, Lebanon, New Jersey, Issue 125.

We need your gardening tips!

Send your tips to [email protected]. We pay $25 for each tip we publish in the magazine.

Prize for winning tip: A FREE one-year subscription to Fine Gardening.


Previous: 6 Ways to Make Great Compost Next: Build Your Own Classic Compost Bin
View Comments


  1. Martinossow 06/07/2021

    Thanks for sharing this Awesome home & gardening post. Find out more about of: Home & Garden

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Gardening Basics

Gardening Basics

Expert advice for the beginner

View Project Guide

View All Project Guides »

Become a member and get unlimited site access, including the Gardening Basics Project Guide.

Start Free Trial

Planning Your Garden
Seed Starting
Maintenance and Troubleshooting
Easy-to-Grow Plants