21 Jul

Composting 101: The Basics

Composting is an increasingly popular way of making food and yard waste work for you, your gardens, and the earth. We like it because we truly believe in conservation, PLUS it saves our customer’s garbage disposals. But….where do you put all that stuff anyway?

First, I think it’s worth taking a moment to review what you CAN compost versus what you CAN’T. This alone can save you mass amounts of headache and issues. 

What’s Good For Composting?

The building blocks of a good compost are “wet greens” and “dry browns.” Wet greens are high in nitrogen, dry browns are high in carbon. Those are the two essential elements for composting. Some examples of both:

Wet Greens: 

  • grass clippings
  • coffee grounds
  • egg shells (rinsed)
  • kitchen scraps (vegetable and fruit scraps)

Dry Browns:

  • dried leaves
  • straw
  • sawdust
  • pine needles
  • shredded paper


  • meat and bones – well, hello there rats, flies, and other fun animals you don’t want in your compost
  • cat or dog manure – their worming treatments can kill off composting worms
  • old weeds that have flowered – you don’t want to add weed seed to your compost
  • diseased plants – don’t spread the disease over your garden
  • citrus peel – the acid content doesn’t get along with compost materials.

For a more comprehensive list of compostables, check out compostinginstructions.com

Where Can I Put My Compost Pile?

For your kitchen scraps, investing in an under-the-sink compost bin is a good start. They normally come with a charcoal anti-stink filter so no need to worry about stocking up on air fresheners. Once your smaller kitchen bin gets full, you can add it to your compost pile outside

To start a compost pile outside, look for an area that is level, well-drained, and on lawn or grass. A dry, shady spot is a good place to start, but really – consider what kind of attention you intend to give it, and place it where you will get the most composting bang for your buck. Because our region gets quite rainy, have a cover handy. 

For many people in the City of Portland, compost is included in curb-side garbage pick up. How awesome is that? That’s a fantastic option for people who want to compost to conserve, but don’t necessarily want it on their property for extended periods of time. To find out more about curb side compost pick up, check out:  Portland Composts!

Composting For Your House And Garden

Once you have the composting thing down, time to add your compost to your soil beds. The compost takes approximately 40 to 130 days to become ready for your garden. Take the composted materials and add it to the areas you want to enrich, which can include pots! The common ratio for starting plants from seed is one part compost to three parts soil. 

Add your compost to established houseplants, spread it around your garden, or dig it into your soil. 

Quick Composting Facts:

  • Composting can prevent up to 30% of household waste from making it to the garbage can and landfill
  • Composting saves water. When your compost is mixed in with your soil, the water retention is high, thus needing less water. 
  • Ward off plant diseases. Because nobody likes rotten tomatoes.
  • Composting helps prevent pollution. Keeping all of that material from landfills produces less methane and leachate formation. Compost can also keep pollutants out of storm water.

We think it’s worth the effort!


About Karen Mares

A Portlander born and raised, Karen lives in Southwest Portland with her husband and children. Karen has kept journals throughout her life, and she began her personal blog, Random Thoughts From A Suburban Mom in 2007. She hasn't stopped writing online since, channeling her passion for words and information into writing and communicating through social media and blogging.