Composting In Schools

Best Ever Compost

This is an excerpt from Composting: Wastes to Resources, a 4-H Leader's/Teacher's Guide written by Jean Bonhotal and Marianne Krasny and published by Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Just Follow the Recipe!

Composting is like baking a cake. Simply add the
ingredients, stir, "bake," and out comes -- compost!

Whether you compost kitchen wastes or yard and
garden wastes, there are a few basic steps to
follow. Here are the necessary ingredients and
general directions for composting.


Add a mixture of some or all of the following

  • vegetable peels and seeds
  • egg shells
  • fruit peels and seeds
  • nut shells
  • coffee grounds
  • any other vegetable or fruit scraps

    Note: (Do not add meat scraps, bones, dairy
    products, oils, or fat. They may attract pesty

    Add a mixture of some or all of the following
  • hay or straw
  • wood chips
  • grass clippings
  • weeds and other garden waste
  • leaves
  • manure
  • ashes
  • shredded paper
  • sawdust


    1. Choose a "pot" for baking your compost. Any type of composting bin will do.

    2. Place kitchen or yard wastes into the composting bin. Chop or shred the organic materials if you want them to compost quickly.

    3. Spread soil or "already done" compost over the compost pile. This layer contains the microorganisms and soil animals that do the work of making the compost. It also helps keep the surface from drying out.

    4. Adjust the moisture in your compost pile. Add dry straw or sawdust to soggy materials, or add water to a pile that is too dry. The materials should be damp to the touch, but not so wet that drops come out when you squeeze it.

    5. Allow the pile to "bake." It should heat up quickly and reach the desired temperature (90° to 140°F, or 32° to 60°C) in four to five days.

    6. Stir your compost as it bakes if you want to speed up the baking time.

    7. The pile will settle down from its original height. This is a good sign that the compost is baking properly.

    8. If you mix or turn your compost pile every week, it should be "done," or ready to use, in one to two months. If you don't turn it, the compost should be ready in about six to twelve months.

    9. Your "best ever compost" should look like dark crumbly soil mixed with small pieces of organic material. It should have a sweet, earthy smell.

    10. Feed compost to hungry plants by mixing it with the soil.

    Science &
    in Schools


    Cornell Waste Management Institute ©1996
    Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
    Bradfield Hall, Cornell University
    Ithaca, NY 14853