Cold Composting Method

Cold Composting Basics

Cold Composting is the simplest and most basic form of composting.

Simply add organic materials to a pile or bin as they are generated or become available. In six months to a year, the bottom portion of the pile will be a rich compost you can spread in your yard.

Materials to use in your compost pile

  • Grass clippings
  • Brown leaves
  • Green leaves
  • Sticks, twigs
  • Raw vegetable waste
  • Raw fruit waste

Materials to Avoid in the Compost Pile

  • Meats, dairy products, oily foods, and grains
  • Droppings from meat-eating animals
  • Weeds with seeds or runners
  • Diseased and insect-infested plants
  • Shavings and sawdust from treated wood, and other materials containing strong preservatives or other toxins
  • Ashes

Putting it Together

Pick a location for your compost pile: Set your compost bin or start pile in an area where it is sure to get rained on, yet preferably out of direct summer sunlight. It should not be immediately next to any building or structure as there will be helpful bugs hanging out in the pile assisting in the process.

Build Your Bin: You can either build or buy a bin. A bin can be as simple as a cylinder of chicken wire. Or as complex as you want to make it. There are numerous sources for compost bins on the Internet so we won't go into much detail here. Note: for the cold method, the bin is simply for containment in the event of heavy rain or high winds. The bottom of the bin should be bare ground - this facilitates movement of beneficial bacteria and bugs during the process.

Add your layers: Start adding to you pile with the approved items listed above. It can be handy to have a pile of leaves or grass you can draw from to make a top layer when you add food waste. This can keep pests out of your pile. The smaller/finer the items you add the faster they will decompose, so try to break up larger items into 1/2 inch or less sized pieces.

Keep and eye on it: While the cold method requires little to no maintenance, you are just letting nature do its thing, if there are any long periods of time without rain you may need to add water to the pile to keep the decomposition process moving along. When you add water, just add until it reaches the content of a wrung out sponge.

Harvest: After six months to a year, the bottom portion of the pile should be rich, usable compost. Use a shovel or pitch fork to temporarily move the top of the pile and shovel out the good stuff. Once you have what you need, just pile it all up and use that as the base for your new pile.

Ways to Use Compost

To maintain a lawn or garden, sprinkle a half-inch layer of sifted compost once each year around your grass and water it in.

Mix 3 inches of compost into the top 8 to 10 inches of soil for intensive gardening or flower beds.

Use compost as about one-third of a potting soil mix to add nutrients and to control fungus.