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COVID-19 Advisory: WSU Extension is working to keep our communities safe. All Extension programming is being provided virtually, postponed, or canceled. Effective March 16, 2020, WSU Extension county offices and WSU Research & Extension Centers will be closed to the public. We are available via email, phone, and webconference.


Program Contact: Jennifer Kaye Cawdery, Coordinator
(509) 667-6540 •

What is Composting?

Composting is a simple technique that turns organic materials, like yard debris and vegetative food scraps, into a rich soil conditioner that we can use in our yards and gardens

This process occurs in nature continually as vegetation falls to the ground and slowly decays. Composting is simply a technique we can use to accelerate this natural process.

Why Compost?

  • Reduces the amount of garbage to be landfilled or incinerated
  • Provides an excellent soil conditioner
  • Enhances a natural cycle of our environment
  • Is easy to do and makes sense

Four Easy Steps to Backyard Composting

Step 1: Choose and Prepare a Site:

The ideal location for a compost pile is a spot that receives equal amounts of sunshine and shade. There are many simple and inexpensive ways to prepare a site. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Place compostable materials in a dense pile
  • Use chicken wire and wooden stakes to build an enclosure
  • Scrap lumber can be used to build wooden bins
  • A variety of compost bin ideas and plans from the simple to the sophisticated is available. Call or email our office for brochures.

Step 2: Select and Combine and Right Materials

Much of the yard debris and vegetative food scraps many of us place in the garbage are easily composted. The main parts of a compost pile are:

  • grass clippings, seedless weeds
  • green vegetation
  • dry layers of leaves, chipped twigs and branches
  • garden soil and/or manure
What to Compost

Choose the right materials to keep your compost productive and free of odors and pests.

Compost Do Not Compost
grass clippings meat and fish
leaves chicken/poultry
vegetable scraps animal fats
fruit peelings/cores bones
egg and nut shells vegetable oils
garden clippings dairy products
stalks and stems plastics
seedless weeds synthetic fibers
wood ashes

Step 3: Keep Moist and Provide Ventilation

Water should be added periodically to maintain a sufficient moisture content. The pile should not be soaked, but watered to the consistency of a wrung-out sponge

Air circulation aids in the composting process. How frequently you turn your compost pile by moving materials from the bottom to the top will determine how soon your compost will be ready for use.

Air circulation aids in the composting process. How frequently you turn your compost pile by moving materials from the bottom to the top will determine how soon your compost will be ready for use.

  • Infrequent turning (once every 4-5 weeks) produces a finished compost in 4-6 months. With more frequent turning (every 3-5 days), compost can be ready in 2-3 weeks.
  • You can also help to produce good airflow by pushing rods or poles through your compost pile to produce airways.

Step 4: Use the Compost In Your Yard or Garden

Reap the benefits of your labor by using the composted material as a soil conditioner for landscaping or in your garden!

  • The compost is ready for use when it is a rich dark color and it is broken down into small particles.
  • It is good practice to sieve the compost through a 1-1/2″ screen. Return the coarse, unfinished material back into your pile for further decomposition.
  • Apply the compost to your garden in 1″ to 3″ layers. Mix the compost and soil well and work it into the ground. It is best to add no more than one pound of compost per square foot of soil.

This information was originally prepared by Environmental Resource Services.

For additional information about composting visit WSU Stewardship Gardening and Backyard Composting, a WSU publication. For your other gardening questions, please contact the Master Gardeners at the WSU Chelan County Extension office at (509) 667-6540.