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Composting at home is fun, easy and builds healthy soil that helps your garden thrive. You can start simple and learn as you go. This information will help get you started.
A Compost Pile Needs 4 Things:
Greens: fresh, moist materials like food scraps and fresh grass clippings. They add moisture and nitrogen to the pile and decompose quickly.
Browns: dry, dead plant materials like fallen leaves and twigs. They add carbon to the pile and decompose slowly.
Water: the helpful microorganisms inside your pile need moisture to thrive. These include fungi and bacteria, which break down greens and browns.
Air: these microorganisms also need oxygen to thrive.
When all 4 are in balance, the pile will break down quickly. We recommend adding equal parts greens and browns to your pile.
Easy Things to Compost
Start with anything from a plant.
Add fresh greens like:
Grass clippings, cut flowers, green leaves, green plants
Vegetable scraps, fruit peels, apple cores
Coffee grounds, food scraps, mouldy food, tea bags, egg shells
Autumn leaves, small branches, twigs, straw, dry grass
Newspaper, shredded paper
Tricky Things to Compost
Meat, fish, bones
Cheese, dairy products
These can cause problems. Try composting small amounts as you gain experience.
Things to Avoid
These can carry disease or cause problems in your pile.
Find a Bin That’s Right For You
There are many different ways to compost. Bins are great for beginners and easy to find at hardware stores. Consider the amount of space you have and the volume of material you plan to compost.
To see examples of different compost bins in action, visit
Compost School, located by Fort Edmonton Park. Learn more about how to choose a bin that’s right for you, or build your own.
Getting Started in 5 Steps
Put your compost bin in a convenient spot. It should be easy to access year ‘round.
Fill one-third of your bin with browns, like fallen leaves or straw.
Add greens often. They keep your pile decomposing.
Mix your compost pile once a week. Use a shovel, garden fork or compost aerating tool. This adds air to the middle of your pile.
Add water as needed. Keep your compost pile as wet as a wrung-out sponge.
Can I Compost in Winter?
Yes! Your compost pile will freeze, along with any food scraps you add to it. That’s okay. When spring comes, the pile will thaw and composting will start again. We recommend that you:
Add water to your pile in winter. This freezes your compost pile which discourages critters like mice from visiting.
Mix your compost pile in April. This helps the pile start composting early in spring.
My pile isn’t composting
Your pile likely has too many browns or is too dry. Add some water and greens and mix the pile to get outside materials into the middle. You can also try chopping up your greens into smaller pieces. Small pieces compost quicker than large pieces.
My compost pile smells
A balanced compost pile has a pleasant, earthy smell. If your pile is stinky, it likely has too many greens or is too wet. Add more browns and mix the pile to release moisture and add air.
My compost pile is attracting critters
The greens in your pile may be easy food for insects or animals. Try covering them with a thick layer of browns. If critters have moved in, make it a less attractive home by mixing regularly and adding water.
To prevent critters from coming back, keep your pile actively composting by balancing greens, browns, air and water. A balanced pile decomposes quickly, meaning food is less accessible to animals.
We’re here to help!