Organic Gardening: Tips On How To Manage Your Compost Pile

At the beginning of May I posted an article about composting and gardening that generated some interest called Composting and Organic Gardening Checklist for Spring. Since I had piqued my own interest on the subject of organic gardening again, I decided to go with that cue and share more gardening thoughts and reflections:

Papasan Chair, Orchids, Patio

A Few Past Articles to Note

I also wrote some past articles on my gardening and composting experiences:

Compost: A Key Ingredient to Gardening Success

Sunday in the Garden

Spring Gardening and Starbucks Coffee Grounds

Tips On Maintaining a Successful Compost Pile

Composting isn’t really hard to do, though dedication and being consistent are key factors to success, as with anything in life. Much of your organic gardening supplies can come from your kitchen in the form of organic waste and leftover banana peels, vegetable cuttings, etc. And you don’t have to buy any fancy organic gardening equipment, either. Just your standard gardening tools will do and you can start a compost pile in a corner of your backyard.

I personally work on my compost pile on a daily basis. This assures that the materials added to the compost pile will decompose fairly quickly. I have a simple daily routine in which I add composting materials from the kitchen whenever my pail of kitchen refuse gets full. Being that I’m trying to live a raw-vegan lifestyle, I have a LOT of kitchen refuse because of all the organic plant matter that gets discarded.


. . . .

My Daily Routine

  • I add discarded kitchen refuse to a small pail.
  • When the pail gets full, I take it to the compost pile.
  • I dig a small “hole” in the compost pile, then add the refuse into it.
  • I cover the “hole” with surrounding compost, and bury it (so that stray animals won’t get to it).
  • I dig around the compost pile to aerate the pile, and push more compost to the top of the pile.
  • If necessary, I sprinkling water on the pile to keep it moist.

And that’s basically it. I figure the total time invested in this daily routine is about 15 minutes a day.

. . . .

Quick Notes

  • Because I have an open compost pile, animals have tried to get to some of the vegetable and fruit refuse. By burying newly added material into the pile, it helps keep it away from animals.
  • Burying newly added composting material also helps it to quickly decompose, since it exposes it to the microorganisms within.
  • Using a skinny shovel (or pitch fork) and “turning” the pile daily (from my experience) seems to help accelerate decomposition of organic matter.
  • Keeping the pile moist by sprinkling water on it also helps accelerate the decomposing process.
  • Adding too much “brown material” (like dried leaves, twigs, etc) could slow down the decomposing process.
  • Too much green material might make the pile smell bad.
  • I try to strive for a ratio of 3:1 of brown material to green material. This keeps the pile “hot” and helps speed up the entire composting process.
  • Most of my “green material” comes from the kitchen and the lawn.
  • The “brown material” comes from dried leaves, small twigs, coffee grounds, a few bits of shredded newspapers, and other miscellaneous dried cuttings from around the garden.
  • The brown material should be as small as possible. Most of the green organic matter from the kitchen decomposes fairly quickly and gets absorbed into the pile.

. . . .

The Best Materials For Faster Decomposition

I find that certain materials added to the pile help accelerate the composting process.

These include:

  • Lettuce Leaves, spinach, and other leafy greens that have gone bad.
  • Cucumber slices or any leftover veggies that have gone bad.
  • Banana Peels – one of the best things to add to the pile on a daily basis.
  • Coffee Grounds – from your own coffee machine, but better yet, Starbucks coffee grounds!
  • Dried Bougainvillea Flowers – these disintegrate rather quickly and I usually just collect them from underneath the shrub, or leave them as they make a good mulch for the plant itself.

Backyard - May 6, 2010
Backyard, Taken on May 6, 2010

. . . .

For true-to-form organic gardening, it’s best to add “organic” materials to the compost pile. If you are using waste from organic fruits and vegetables, and from organic plant cuttings, then you are providing the best future compost for your organic garden. I do try to avoid newspapers and cardboard, and other materials that might have synthetic or un-natural compounds in it. Staying “organic” will help make your garden a better and healthier place.



Carlos Rull

Carlos Rull is a musician living in the San Diego area. His interests include Yoga, Eastern Philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Gardening. He plays drums, piano, and composes New Age & Ambient music, and his albums are available on iTunes and

4 thoughts on “Organic Gardening: Tips On How To Manage Your Compost Pile

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.