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How to Compost – Magnificent Garden Soil

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How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

Do you compost? Oh my gosh, if you don’t, why not?!!! It is easy, it’s great for the environment and it will result in amazing nutrient rich soil that surpasses anything you can buy from a store! Some of the additional benefits are that you will reduce the amount of trash you produce and keep things out of the landfill.

Keep reading to learn How to Compost and create your own magnificent garden soil!

Now, I totally understand if you are living in the big city in an apartment and really don’t have space for compost let alone potted plants (but if you do want to compost, read more about worm composting in a container.) However, f you have a yard, you really should be composting! It’s easy, it takes very little time, and my little wiggly BFFs (aka worms) do all the work for you.

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

That’s right, they eat up all your kitchen and yard waste and turn it into beautiful black soil. How do they do it? If I tell you, you have to promise that you won’t get grossed out. They poop it out. LOL. Yup, compost is decomposition and worm castings (a nicer word for worm poop.) Please don’t run away, find out how easy it is to create this magnificent garden soil.

Here’s the basics for how to compost and get top quality soil for your garden and landscaping for FREE!

How to Compost – Magnificent Garden Soil Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

  • Spading ForkHow to Compost
  • Sealed bucket or container to store kitchen scraps:

Attractive Compost Pails I wouldn't mind having in my kitchen!

Blue and White Floral CrockSea Blue Compost CrockGreen Stoneware Crock
 Copper Compost Bin  |  OXO Flip Lid Compost Container  |  Red Ceramic Crock
Green Metal Pail  | Bamboo Compost Pail  | Sprout Compost Container


What can be composted?

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

  • Kitchen scraps
    • raw fruits
    • vegetables
    • egg shells
  • Coffee grounds and the filter
  • Newspapers, non-glossy cardboard, paper towels
  • Leaves (brown for carbon and green for nitrogen rich)
  • Grass clippings
  • Plant & flower clippings
  • Yard waste

What can’t be composted?

  • Meats
  • Dairy products
  • Processed foods
  • Plastic
  • Man made substances
  • Metals

Okay, you get the picture. Only raw fruits and veggies (and egg shells), okay?


Your pile doesn’t have to be anything special. A simple a hole in the ground is fine. Find a partially shaded spot in your yard. A shady spot is ideal so the pile doesn’t get dried out in the hot sun. If you’ve had a dry spell for a while, go ahead and water the pile. If you have pets, put a little fencing around it to keep them from getting into the compost. (Eating decomposing food can make them sick.) Don’t worry too much about wild animals (unless you have a serious pest problem.) Animals will come sniffing around and may dig a scrap or two out of the pile, but they rarely take up residence in your yard. However, if you are concerned about pests, go ahead and purchase a closed bin for your yard.  Otherwise, save your money, a fancy tumbler or bin aren’t necessary for the compost to produce.

How to Compost:

Keep your compost bucket in your kitchen. (We keep our pail under the sink, but if you have a pretty container you can leave it on the countertop.)

How to Compost - Magnificent Garden Soil| Pretty Handy Girl

After cutting veggies or fruit, toss the scraps in the bucket. Coffee grounds can get thrown in, filter and all! Egg shells are also great for your compost.

When the bucket is full, take your scraps outside to the compost pile. Clear a hole in your pile, dump the scraps and cover them over with dirt or soil (this will prevent attracting too much wildlife to your pile.)

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

Occasionally throw in some torn up strips of newspaper to add some “carbon” source to the pile. The key to a healthy compost is to have a good mixture of green (nitrogen rich) vs. brown (carbon rich) materials. Don’t overload on grass clippings or yard waste.

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

Flip some fresh soil on top of the scraps and walk away! That’s it. What about my BFFs, the worms? If you start the pile, they will come. Trust me, they’ll find your pile. If you’re super antsy, you could buy some red wigglers from a fishing bait place, but honestly why bother? Soon you’ll have big fat overfed worms happily working for you for free. Go back in 2-3 weeks and check on the progress of your magnificent garden soil.

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

I usually grab my magnificent soil from the bottom when I need it. But, you can split your pile in two. Use one side to add scraps to and let the other side “marinade” to perfection. Then switch sides. Frankly my little worm army works pretty fast. Within a month they have produced enough compost to fill some potted plants and more. I rarely buy soil anymore unless I need a huge amount.

What about composting in the winter? If you aren’t under a dumping of snow, your pile can still work in the winter. In fact, you’ll be surprised to see the warm steam rising from the pile when you dig into the center.

Compost Tea:

Now that you have a rockin’ compost pile you may want to learn how to make a compost tea to further nourish your plants and help them be healthier and heartier! I haven’t tried it yet, but you better believe I’ll be brewing some compost tea this year.

Share this article with your friends and do something environmentally friendly! Pin this graphic to refer to later:

How to Compost - Magnificent Garden Soil| Pretty Handy Girl

Now that you have compost to use, learn how to create a rot resistant planter bed:

How to Build a Rot-Resistant Raised Planter Bed | Pretty Handy Girl

And maybe you want to dip your toes in the Square Foot Gardening craze!


91 replies
  1. michelle f.
    michelle f. says:

    my grandpa used to raise worms to sell to the bait shops in the area back in the sixties and seventies to help supplement his disability payments. my grandma had the best vegetable & flower garden plus her potted plants and ferns were just awesome. she used the worm castings from all of grandpa’s worm beds to fertilize with. grandma called it “super poop”.

  2. Lotoya Jackson
    Lotoya Jackson says:

    You are so awesome! I just love you. I recently purchased a little house and cannot wait to get my yard in order! Thank you for the great ideas!!! Oh, I just love you!!

      • marge wright
        marge wright says:

        Thankyou for all the information,given,I will give it a try,I live in Spain,so guess my heap will dry out,but will water now and again,I never see worms,but again nothing ventured nothing gained,always buying bags of peat,so to have something like this to add to it would be great,
        Thanks again

      • Ray
        Ray says:

        You make it easy. For a year, when I go to a big store outlet, they have barrels for 300.00 bucks. The barrel is on wheels and has a crank to mix it. I thought that was a little expensive. I held out. Seeing your wonderful article gives me inspiration. Thank you so much.

  3. Rosalina Davis
    Rosalina Davis says:

    I’ve always heard of composting and I’m glad to learn its this easy! I have began a flower and vegetable garden recently in my yard. Will the worms be pests to my garden or do they only eat dirt? Thank you for this informative and fun article.

  4. M Abdalla
    M Abdalla says:

    i used to compost in plastic container with bottom holes
    it is simple and easy way
    i used to put suitable layer of dry leaves then daily adding of kitchen scrubs of veg. and fruits
    it takes few weeks to fill the container with mixing every few days then surface layer of dry leaves again then some soil or old compost then turning the container upside down every few days
    it takes about 3 months to be ready when it becomes third of its original size with change of colour to brown and disappearance of bad odour
    when its odor look like soil following rain this means your compost is ready to use

  5. Robert Nowlin
    Robert Nowlin says:

    I like your post on composting…simple and easy to understand. I wish more folks would do it. It’s not only “good” in the obvious way for the garden, but good for the earth! Thanks for your wise words!

  6. Cee
    Cee says:

    I’m not a gardener, but I truly love the idea of using scraps that would otherwise end up in a landfill!! Thanks for the great post!

  7. BethH
    BethH says:

    Once I had to search through a compost bin for something that had accidently been knocked into the kitchen scraps, and it was full of maggots. Worms I’m okay with, maggots give me the willies. That incident has kept me from composting. What I’m wondering is, if you use a container for composting, do you need to introduce worms to it, is there a way to keep maggots out of it, and if you just dig a hole in the ground do you have the maggot problem?

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Beth, I haven’t had a maggot problem, but I did some research about maggots in compost piles and it’s not going to hurt your pile. They are a part of nature. 😉 Yes, if you are container composting, you’ll have to add worms. But, I like the hole in the ground composting. It’s a lot less maintenance.

    • jenn
      jenn says:

      I’m about a year late to this conversation, but I wanted to point out that a compost pile will usually only get maggots if something like meat or dairy is put into it. Meat and dairy also attracts animals like skunks, raccoons, and coyotes. Some animals are okay in the pile because, believe it or not, their poop is good stuff. I add rabbit and chicken poop and used wood chip bedding to my pile. And don’t forget your teabags–they can go in, too.

  8. Christina
    Christina says:

    Hi! I’ve had the same problem as Beth, with maggots – giant creepy guys. My husband is a juicer, veggies only. We have the countertop scrap container with the holes in the lid and some kind of carbon filter. So, all spring and summer long I’ve been hauling, dumping, and mixing these pulverized veggie scraps along with our coffee and tea bags. My outdoor compost bin was made by my dad. Its a dark trashcan with holes in the sides. He somehow drilled these 1″ holes all around. The lid is the type you spin and lock. Ok, all of this time I’ve been dumping and stirring, right? Yes. (My dad was the guy who got me started with composting and I think it’s awesome! But he’s always told me to keep it in the sun?) Also, when I’d go to stir, it had the most awful smell!! I can’t even describe it. I know it’s supposed to smell like dirt, but…? One day I’m standing near the bin and I hear strange noises. I followed the sounds and found they were coming from the bin. Opened the lid and discovered tons of these giant maggots!! They obviously were not fly’s. They were brown with ringed bodies and at least an inch long. I was so disappointed! Do not know at all what I did wrong and had to throw the whole thing away:-‘( What the heck did I do wrong? It’s not rocket science. I’d really appreciate some help so maybe one day I can start all over? Thanks for reading!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:


      I did a little bit of research and my initial thoughts is that your compost might be too hot and too damp if it’s in a closed up container. Did you add worms to your bin? If not, I’d recommend dumping the scraps out and start over. This time be sure you have enough carbon, add some red wiggler worms (buy at a fishing supply shop.) Personally I’ve had better luck without a bin. Just a hole in the ground ;-).

    • Nilstria
      Nilstria says:

      Just for posterity since it has been a few months, but the problem with your compost is that it is too green. Like the author said, you must maintain a balance between “green” and “brown” items. Veggies and stuff that comes out of the house are all green: wet, full of nitrogen, turn to mush. You need brown to balance it, and a few teabags and coffee is not going to do it. You need leaves, sawdust, straw, dry stuff that will balance out the wet. Your compost stinks and is rotting because actual decomposition cannot happen in an overly wet environment. Wetness means lack of oxygen, and those microbes you’re trying to proliferate need oxygen. Dry up the compost and you’ll see a definite improvement. Of course, you don’t want to be too dry either, but to me, you probably wont have that problem. You also shouldn’t have maggots because they cannot take the heat (literally) of proper decomposition. They need rotting stuff.

  9. Randolph H.
    Randolph H. says:

    Hey Brittany!
    Yes do you have any comments about the last two entries with the maggot problem? I would also like to know if the maggots are ok to dump into the compost bin?

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Randolph, you can go ahead and throw your kitchen scraps out into your compost pile. It’s not going to harm you. You definitely want to use a small bin that seals tight (1 gallon or smaller). Then be sure to empty your scraps at least once a week.

  10. Julie Jackson
    Julie Jackson says:

    I have what appeared to be maggots as well. They are soldier fly maggots. They do lots of work on the compost( I have heard what sounds like rice krispies in milk at times when composting, that’s how active they are) I was told the flies that result have no interest in people or our food. When I began looking online, I was amazed that more people had these, and were seriously creeped out. I was until I realized what they were. No, they aren’t as cute as my wiggly worms in my former location, but man, these guys do quick work, and I live in an area where I have an open pile, not a tumbler anymore.

  11. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    I have a large compost box that was built by the previous owners, and I use it for yard debris but I have been leery of adding food scraps because we live near water and occasionally find evidence of water rats (some neighbors have seen them). Do you think that if I just dug a hole in the pile, filled it, then covered it with branches it would go unnoticed by our unwanted friends?

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Lynne, if you cover the scraps really well with dirt, you should be okay. But, if there aren’t any other food sources around the rats may find your compost pile regardless of what you do.

  12. Teresa S
    Teresa S says:

    I have been composting for years. We have 2 different methods going. 1 is a square bin bought from home depot and we also have 2 garbage cans with holes drilled in them so you can fill it up and roll it around. I just started the second method recently so I don’t have any results yet, but so far it seems to be a good idea. Composting is a gardener’s dream and I agree if you have a yard you really should take advantage, even if its just to reduce your trash. Great article!

  13. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    I’ve had a problem with food getting mold on it before it gets outside. I will say that I don’t have it in a closed container. I have been throwing the moldy stuff out…. right?

  14. Julia
    Julia says:

    This is definitely not true. You may get lucky, and the head may be able to regenerate, if you left enough body with the head, but usually, if you cut a worm in half, you get two pieces of dead worm.

    However, if you are worried about your wormy babies, intensive vermicomposting systems are raised, adding new material to the top and collecting from the bottom. The worms will move toward the newer food source and the chances of running into one is much lower. The other option (easier for home gardeners) is a split composter. Put a board halfway through your compost heap, add to one side and allow the worms to work while you add to the other. Once one side is good and composted, raise the board, give the worms a few days to move, put the board back down, and collect your worm free composted material from the other side.

  15. Julia
    Julia says:

    Afraid so. Worms are not really so different from other animals, they have organs that they need to survive, and most of those are right up near the mouth end.

  16. Michael Dadourian
    Michael Dadourian says:

    I learned a lot about composting years ago while living in South Korea. I know think the bucket in the kitchen is life changing for the benefits of what it can do for one’s own back yard and so much more for the Earth. Great share, I may have to share this post with my Whole Food Raw Foodism Google+ community!

  17. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    I read a whole book on worms once and the author stated that worms do NOT grow into two if they are cut in half. She said they die. I never get anything going on in my compost bin but have had great luck in my manure piles, except too many weeds grow on the top. Its way too big to turn over much.

  18. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    I have been tossing the idea of composting since we moved and now have a house with a large yard. My biggest fear though is attracting mice. Any advice?

    • Alessandra
      Alessandra says:

      I have the same fear, and doubt. I have two small children so I am afraid a compost pile might attract some unwanted animals such as mice and poisonous insects… Can you advise on that please?

  19. Rose McLeish
    Rose McLeish says:

    Brittany,you are a good teacher…thanks for your interesting informative pin .Apart from the worm in my hand, I’ll be a good student.

  20. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    Has anyone had issues with the smell? I have a small yard in a densely populated area. I’d love to compost, but I’m worried the neighbors will complain, and I won’t want to enjoy my yard. Thoughts?

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Valerie, our’s doesn’t smell like anything other than dirt. If you keep your scraps buried under dirt, it shouldn’t smell. Also be sure to add enough carbon items (newspapers, leaves, etc.) if your pile starts to get too wet.

  21. Gymgirl
    Gymgirl says:

    Patrick Dolan (oneyardrevolution) over on YouTube has a great perspective on composting and vermicomposting. I’ve been following him for awhile now, and have just purchased my second Geobin Composter from Amazon. It is soooooo easy to set up! I fill it with alternating layers of FREE resource materials: leaves from the curbside, coffee grinds from Starbucks, and, my own veggie peels.

    When I grabbed some bags of leaves I had stored away for the second composter, I took a step back from what I thought looked like a small snake. On careful inspection, it was one of the the biggest, prettiest earthworms I have ever seen. YAAAAY! I have worms! And, I have frogs!!! And, I’m turning my veggie garden into one of the healthiest ecosystems in my neighborhood!

    And, like Brittany, I am no longer having to purchase potting mixes. My goal is to have enough compost going to fill all my raised beds and planters, whenever they need topping off. And, like Patrick, my other goal is to stop having to purchasing fertilizers and pesticides, too. All benefits of moving toward naturally composted materials for the garden!

    Brittany, yours is an excellent tutorial. BTW, what you do is called “hole composting.” When I run out of space in my two Geobins, I’m gonna start digging and filling holes around my yard, to enrich the soil “outside the boxes,” LOL!


    Couple of Things:
    ►If you dig your hole deep enough before you put your kitchen scraps in, and cover it well, animals generally won’t mess with it — they can’t smell what’s in it…

    ►If your compost is smelly, it may be anaerobic – which means there’s not enough oxygen exchange taking place. Get yourself a good garden fork (I just bought the green handled one from Home Depot, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it) and TURN your pile to introduce some oxygen to it…

    ►Worms do not eat your garden waste. Tiny little microbes jump all over the organic material and begin breaking it down. The energy those microbes expend doing that is what causes the heat in your pile. You have heat, you have microbes working triple time, breaking down the organic matter. Your worms (earthworms or red wigglers), in turn, eat the microbes, that break down your garden material. Soldier fly maggots and/or pill bugs, and various other little creatures also do their part in breaking down the material.

    ►Used coffee grinds is like a dinner bell to a worm. If all you ever do is dig a hole and put your used coffee filter in it, they will come! The grinds also serve as grit to help the worms digest.

    Ok. That’s all folks!


  22. AuntFer13
    AuntFer13 says:

    Maggots and stink mentioned in previous posts, I’ve got a solution…The large plastic coffee containers (mine specifically being the red Folgers) are fantastic under the sink. Simply dump all the kitchen scraps, coffee filters, etc. and close the lids. It seals tight and never issues with bugs or smells (stinks only when opened to add more sometimes). When full, dump them in the outdoor compost, rinse with garden hose, wash in dishwasher. The outdoor compost in the meantime is being filled with leaves, plants, and other ‘brown’ ingredients. It’s been working for us for several years.

    • Stacy
      Stacy says:

      I actually keep my kitchen scraps in a plastic bin that I keep in the door of my freezer …..no rotting food…..no magots….no smell….when bin is full and its dry enough to trek out to the garden I go dump the bin and out the empty container back in the freezer
      Oh……i also just dump my scraps unto the garden all winter not a seperate compost pile…..in the growing season I dig holes in areas where there are no plants and dump my kitchen scraps there and cover with soil when hole is full ……been doing it for years and have had great sucess and great soil!!!!! Lots and lits of worms!!!!!

  23. k.k.sharma
    k.k.sharma says:

    Thanks for the god and helpful article on compost. Presently I amusing cow dung compost which I purchased from the nursery but found termites in it because it was some what in raw condition. I want to use boric acid power to kill. these tiny creatures. Kindly tell me if I use water for sprinkling on it through sprinkler pot whether I have to wear gloves . If not what will be the harm to naked hands if if I do not use gloves.

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      I don’t know the answer, but to be safe I’d wear gloves. Also, not sure that you need to kill the termites. They are naturally occurring in areas of decaying wood. Just don’t put them near your house.

  24. Esther Abe
    Esther Abe says:

    I have accidentally found your website thru pintrist. This is my problem – I have been unsuccessful with my tumbler composter. Can you give me some instructions? I have no problems with my bin composters — I have two bins going all the time..
    I also had maggots, but have solved that problem by adding more dry ingredients, i.e. dry leaves to absorb some of that excess moisture.

  25. Rachael
    Rachael says:

    I’m a new homeowner and have been doing some research on building a garden. I came across your article and thought that its super informative. My only question is, when should I start the compost process, with it being late January and everything here in CT I don’t want to start too soon, or too late. I can’t wait to start gardening this spring. thanks for all your helpful advice!

  26. Rita
    Rita says:

    I am somewhat late to this party but what about using a Vitamix? Throw the stuff in there, give ‘er a whirl and pour it into the compost pile? Yes?

  27. rozylass
    rozylass says:

    So what do I do when I am under a dumping of snow? No one addresses that circumstance. I live in MN and can’t get to my compost pile after the first snowfall. Any ideas?

  28. Qurtob
    Qurtob says:

    In the winter, I cook my scraps till they’re crispy & dry, then break them into small black bits & scatter them on my planting beds


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