How to Layer Compost: Simple, Easy, and Effective Steps!

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When I first started looking into composting it all seemed so complicated! Have you been there? That's why I'm so excited to have our guest, Julia from Hello Homestead because she makes this stuff super simple, easy, and effective!

I have to admit that every bit of our compostable material goes to feed either the chickens or rabbits these days though, which then gets put down on the no-till garden beds 🙂 But still, this could definitely work with the green grass clippings and old straw!!


This {free}Planting Chart can help with your garden planning

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Learn to layer compost


Do you want to start composting? These simple steps will help you learn how to layer compost and get started creating your own soil additives.

Composting is an excellent way to dispose of waste while creating garden-friendly soil additives and is simple to start right in your own backyard.

So, you want to do it right. But how?


Anatomy of the compost pile

According to Mark King, a specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and co-founder of the Maine Compost School, moisture management is the key to effective and clean composting. Compost is happiest and at its most productive when it is mixed at a ratio of one part “green” — or organic — waste to two parts carbon producing “brown” waste, such as leaves or manure.


7 Simple steps

Here are seven simple steps to create your own productive and odorless compost pile:


Step 1: Purchase or build a bin that will contain your compost materials.
Pre-made bins are available at most garden and farm supply stores or from online retailers. For the do-it-yourselfer, take a 6- or 10-foot length of 4-foot-high fencing/netting and roll it into a large cylinder. Fasten the ends with bent wire coat hangers to create a bin strong enough to hold the composting materials while allowing for proper aeration.

or, follow this super easy, simple method of composting right in garbage cans.

Step 2: Decide where to place your composter.
The ideal location for your compost is flat, well-drained, and sunny. Most of all, it should be convenient to access year-round. Choose a location close to your home for easy access.

Step 3: Find a source for brown waste.
The best source for brown waste, according to King, is horse manure but dried leaves, lawn clippings, sawdust, shredded newspaper, bark, straw, and even shredded cardboard egg cartons also make good brown waste material.

Step 4: Start saving your green waste.
Green waste includes garden waste and food waste like leftover cooking scraps, eggshells, flowers, tea bags, and coffee grounds. Small countertop compost bins are a great way to collect and store this waste until you are ready to add it to the outdoor bin.


Step 5: Start your compost parfait.
Begin your compost pile by layering your materials. Start with a 6-inch layer of brown waste in the bottom of the compost bin, leaving 6 inches between the brown waste and the sides of the bin.
Add a layer of food waste on top of that and then another 6-inch layer of brown waste that covers the food and extends down into that space between the bottom layer and the sides of the bin. This will seal off the food layer and prevent any odor.

From there, it’s simply a matter of consistent layering the compost in a sort of food waste-brown manure parfait all season until the bin is full.

Step 6: Maintain your compost.
Since you have -- ideally -- placed your compost bin in a convenient location, check in on it on a regular basis and as you add more materials.



Step 7: Time to harvest and use your compost.
The finished compost will be dark and crumbly and should be ready within six months of starting. The finished compost will be at the bottom of the bin and can now be used to boost the nutrients in your garden soil.

Once you’ve created your first load of compost, you can keep it going with the uncomposted materials still in the bin. Just keep layering!

Need help planning your garden? Check out our Free Editable Garden Planting Chart.

Or get the whole Garden Planning Printables Bundle to make sure you have an organized place to store your plans for each step of planning. It reduces the piles of planning paperwork so you can find what you want when you need it!


A more in-depth resource on composting here.

Save these ideas on how to layer compost!


How to layer compost! Simple, easy, and effective ways to compost for the best soil amendment you can get!


About the Author:

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly, staff writer for The Bangor Daily News and Hello Homestead, has worked in print journalism for more than three decades covering the unique characters and life of northern Maine. When not wrangling critters on her Rusty Metal Farm, Julia travels the world seeking adventure and great food wherever she can find it. She loves dogs and chickens, tolerates cats, is unsure of ducks and does not trust goats.





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how to layer compost simply, easy and effective steps for gardeners


  1. Pingback: Your Best Garden Ever! A Garden Series To Give You All The Tools You Need To Succeed - BeanpostFarmstead

  2. Hi:) I know it sounds a little odd, but I always love reading a good composting article. It’s simple process, and we’ve been doing it for years (bokashi, sheet, timber, traditional backyard turning, etc.) but it’s good to be reminded that others get into it as well.

    We;’re off grid homesteaders who use the square foot garnering method, and compost is critical.

    Thank you for sharing!

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