How to Compost – Magnificent Garden Soil

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

Do you compost? Oh my gosh, if you don’t, why not?!!! It is easy, it’s great for the environment and it will result in amazing nutrient rich soil that surpasses anything you can buy from a store! Some of the additional benefits are that you will reduce the amount of trash you produce and keep things out of the landfill.

Now, I totally understand if you are living in the big city in an apartment and really don’t have space for compost let alone potted plants. But, if you have a yard, you really should be composting! It’s easy, it takes very little time and my little gardening BFFs (aka worms) do all the work for you.

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

That’s right, they eat up all your kitchen and yard waste and turn it into beautiful black soil. How do they do it? Well, if I tell you, you have to promise that you won’t get grossed out. They poop it out. LOL. Yup, compost is decomposition and worm castings (a nicer word for worm poop.) Please don’t run away, find out how easy it is to create this magnificent garden soil.

Here’s the basics for how to compost and get top quality soil for your garden and landscaping for FREE!


  • Sealed bucket or container to store kitchen scraps (attractive Metal Compost Bins)
  • Spading Fork
  • Partially shaded spot in your yard (if you have pets, put a little wire mesh fencing around it to keep them from scoring extra food.)

What can be composted?

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

  • Kitchen scraps
    • raw fruits
    • vegetables
    • egg shells
  • Coffee grounds and the filter
  • Newspapers, non-glossy cardboard, paper towels
  • Leaves (brown for carbon and green for nitrogen rich)
  • Grass clippings
  • Plant & flower clippings
  • Yard waste

What can’t be composted?

  • Meats
  • Dairy products
  • Processed foods
  • Plastic
  • Man made substances
  • Metals

Okay, you get the picture. Only raw fruits and veggies (and egg shell) kitchen scraps okay?

How to Compost:

Keep your compost bucket in your kitchen. We keep ours under the sink, but if you have a pretty container you can leave it on the countertop.

How to Compost - Magnificent Garden Soil| Pretty Handy Girl

After cutting veggies or fruit, toss the scraps in the bucket. Coffee grounds can get thrown in filter and all. Egg shells (believe it or not) are also great for your compost.

When the bucket is full, dump your scraps outside in the compost pile. Your pile doesn’t have to be anything special. Ours is simply a hole in the ground. A shady spot is ideal so the pile doesn’t get dried out. If you’ve had a dry spell for a while, go ahead and water the pile.

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

Occasionally throw in some torn up strips of newspaper to add some “carbon” source to the pile. The key to a healthy compost is to have a good mixture of green (nitrogen rich) vs. brown (carbon rich) materials. Don’t overload on grass clippings or yard waste.

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

Flip some fresh soil on top of the scraps and walk away! That’s it. What about my BFFs, the worms? If you start the pile, they will come. Trust me, they’ll find your pile. If you’re super antsy, you could buy some red wigglers from a fishing bait place, but honestly why bother? Soon you’ll have big fat overfed worms happily working for you for free. Go back in 2-3 weeks and check on the progress of your magnificent garden soil.

How to Compost - Secret Gardening Formula | Pretty Handy Girl

I usually grab my magnificent soil from the bottom when I need it. But, you can split your pile in two. Use one side to add scraps to and let the other side “marinade” to perfection. Then switch sides. Frankly my little worm army works pretty fast. Within a month they have produced enough compost to fill some potted plants and more. I rarely buy soil anymore unless I need a huge amount.

Share this article with your friends and do something environmentally friendly! Pin this graphic to refer to later:

How to Compost - Magnificent Garden Soil| Pretty Handy Girl

So, what’s your excuse for not composting? It better be a good one!




  1. michelle f. says:

    my grandpa used to raise worms to sell to the bait shops in the area back in the sixties and seventies to help supplement his disability payments. my grandma had the best vegetable & flower garden plus her potted plants and ferns were just awesome. she used the worm castings from all of grandpa’s worm beds to fertilize with. grandma called it “super poop”.

  2. Great tips in good detail. Thanks for the post, always after tips like this!

  3. Lotoya Jackson says:

    You are so awesome! I just love you. I recently purchased a little house and cannot wait to get my yard in order! Thank you for the great ideas!!! Oh, I just love you!!

  4. I alway wanted to try this…thanks for making it seem so simple! And I did pin it :)

  5. Do you not have issues with wild animals eating the scraps?

  6. Rosalina Davis says:

    I’ve always heard of composting and I’m glad to learn its this easy! I have began a flower and vegetable garden recently in my yard. Will the worms be pests to my garden or do they only eat dirt? Thank you for this informative and fun article.

    • Rosalina, those little worms are truly your BFFs! They continue to condition and aerate the soil in your garden! They don’t eat live plants or their roots that I’m aware of.

  7. M Abdalla says:

    i used to compost in plastic container with bottom holes
    it is simple and easy way
    i used to put suitable layer of dry leaves then daily adding of kitchen scrubs of veg. and fruits
    it takes few weeks to fill the container with mixing every few days then surface layer of dry leaves again then some soil or old compost then turning the container upside down every few days
    it takes about 3 months to be ready when it becomes third of its original size with change of colour to brown and disappearance of bad odour
    when its odor look like soil following rain this means your compost is ready to use

  8. Had to share this with my viewers! Great pic / diagram for those who are confused or skeptical of composting.

  9. I like your post on composting…simple and easy to understand. I wish more folks would do it. It’s not only “good” in the obvious way for the garden, but good for the earth! Thanks for your wise words!

  10. I’m not a gardener, but I truly love the idea of using scraps that would otherwise end up in a landfill!! Thanks for the great post!

  11. Once I had to search through a compost bin for something that had accidently been knocked into the kitchen scraps, and it was full of maggots. Worms I’m okay with, maggots give me the willies. That incident has kept me from composting. What I’m wondering is, if you use a container for composting, do you need to introduce worms to it, is there a way to keep maggots out of it, and if you just dig a hole in the ground do you have the maggot problem?

    • Beth, I haven’t had a maggot problem, but I did some research about maggots in compost piles and it’s not going to hurt your pile. They are a part of nature. 😉 Yes, if you are container composting, you’ll have to add worms. But, I like the hole in the ground composting. It’s a lot less maintenance.

    • I’m about a year late to this conversation, but I wanted to point out that a compost pile will usually only get maggots if something like meat or dairy is put into it. Meat and dairy also attracts animals like skunks, raccoons, and coyotes. Some animals are okay in the pile because, believe it or not, their poop is good stuff. I add rabbit and chicken poop and used wood chip bedding to my pile. And don’t forget your teabags–they can go in, too.

  12. Hi! I’ve had the same problem as Beth, with maggots – giant creepy guys. My husband is a juicer, veggies only. We have the countertop scrap container with the holes in the lid and some kind of carbon filter. So, all spring and summer long I’ve been hauling, dumping, and mixing these pulverized veggie scraps along with our coffee and tea bags. My outdoor compost bin was made by my dad. Its a dark trashcan with holes in the sides. He somehow drilled these 1″ holes all around. The lid is the type you spin and lock. Ok, all of this time I’ve been dumping and stirring, right? Yes. (My dad was the guy who got me started with composting and I think it’s awesome! But he’s always told me to keep it in the sun?) Also, when I’d go to stir, it had the most awful smell!! I can’t even describe it. I know it’s supposed to smell like dirt, but…? One day I’m standing near the bin and I hear strange noises. I followed the sounds and found they were coming from the bin. Opened the lid and discovered tons of these giant maggots!! They obviously were not fly’s. They were brown with ringed bodies and at least an inch long. I was so disappointed! Do not know at all what I did wrong and had to throw the whole thing away:-‘( What the heck did I do wrong? It’s not rocket science. I’d really appreciate some help so maybe one day I can start all over? Thanks for reading!

    • Christina,

      I did a little bit of research and my initial thoughts is that your compost might be too hot and too damp if it’s in a closed up container. Did you add worms to your bin? If not, I’d recommend dumping the scraps out and start over. This time be sure you have enough carbon, add some red wiggler worms (buy at a fishing supply shop.) Personally I’ve had better luck without a bin. Just a hole in the ground ;-).

    • Just for posterity since it has been a few months, but the problem with your compost is that it is too green. Like the author said, you must maintain a balance between “green” and “brown” items. Veggies and stuff that comes out of the house are all green: wet, full of nitrogen, turn to mush. You need brown to balance it, and a few teabags and coffee is not going to do it. You need leaves, sawdust, straw, dry stuff that will balance out the wet. Your compost stinks and is rotting because actual decomposition cannot happen in an overly wet environment. Wetness means lack of oxygen, and those microbes you’re trying to proliferate need oxygen. Dry up the compost and you’ll see a definite improvement. Of course, you don’t want to be too dry either, but to me, you probably wont have that problem. You also shouldn’t have maggots because they cannot take the heat (literally) of proper decomposition. They need rotting stuff.

  13. Randolph H. says:

    Hey Brittany!
    Yes do you have any comments about the last two entries with the maggot problem? I would also like to know if the maggots are ok to dump into the compost bin?

  14. Randolph H. says:
    Hey Brittany can you give some advise about the maggot problems as I would also like to know. Is it ok that you would have maggots in your compost because the kitchen scraps sat for too long and maggots were in the pot. Thanks!

    • Randolph, you can go ahead and throw your kitchen scraps out into your compost pile. It’s not going to harm you. You definitely want to use a small bin that seals tight (1 gallon or smaller). Then be sure to empty your scraps at least once a week.

  15. Julie Jackson says:

    I have what appeared to be maggots as well. They are soldier fly maggots. They do lots of work on the compost( I have heard what sounds like rice krispies in milk at times when composting, that’s how active they are) I was told the flies that result have no interest in people or our food. When I began looking online, I was amazed that more people had these, and were seriously creeped out. I was until I realized what they were. No, they aren’t as cute as my wiggly worms in my former location, but man, these guys do quick work, and I live in an area where I have an open pile, not a tumbler anymore.

  16. Wow the prettiest composting post i’ve ever seen! Nice work! 😀

  17. can you compost bread?

  18. I have a large compost box that was built by the previous owners, and I use it for yard debris but I have been leery of adding food scraps because we live near water and occasionally find evidence of water rats (some neighbors have seen them). Do you think that if I just dug a hole in the pile, filled it, then covered it with branches it would go unnoticed by our unwanted friends?

    • Lynne, if you cover the scraps really well with dirt, you should be okay. But, if there aren’t any other food sources around the rats may find your compost pile regardless of what you do.

  19. Great ideas I have used for years providing hundreds of worms .I share with like minded friends and also fishing buddies .

  20. If you dig in the compost, what about cutting the worms in half?

  21. I have been composting for years. We have 2 different methods going. 1 is a square bin bought from home depot and we also have 2 garbage cans with holes drilled in them so you can fill it up and roll it around. I just started the second method recently so I don’t have any results yet, but so far it seems to be a good idea. Composting is a gardener’s dream and I agree if you have a yard you really should take advantage, even if its just to reduce your trash. Great article!

  22. I’ve had a problem with food getting mold on it before it gets outside. I will say that I don’t have it in a closed container. I have been throwing the moldy stuff out…. right?

    • Barbara, a little mold isn’t a big deal. We get some on our’s too (and our container is closed.) But, I would suggest trying to empty it more frequently. Maybe once or twice a week.

  23. This is definitely not true. You may get lucky, and the head may be able to regenerate, if you left enough body with the head, but usually, if you cut a worm in half, you get two pieces of dead worm.

    However, if you are worried about your wormy babies, intensive vermicomposting systems are raised, adding new material to the top and collecting from the bottom. The worms will move toward the newer food source and the chances of running into one is much lower. The other option (easier for home gardeners) is a split composter. Put a board halfway through your compost heap, add to one side and allow the worms to work while you add to the other. Once one side is good and composted, raise the board, give the worms a few days to move, put the board back down, and collect your worm free composted material from the other side.

  24. Afraid so. Worms are not really so different from other animals, they have organs that they need to survive, and most of those are right up near the mouth end.

  25. I learned a lot about composting years ago while living in South Korea. I know think the bucket in the kitchen is life changing for the benefits of what it can do for one’s own back yard and so much more for the Earth. Great share, I may have to share this post with my Whole Food Raw Foodism Google+ community!

  26. I read a whole book on worms once and the author stated that worms do NOT grow into two if they are cut in half. She said they die. I never get anything going on in my compost bin but have had great luck in my manure piles, except too many weeds grow on the top. Its way too big to turn over much.

  27. I have been tossing the idea of composting since we moved and now have a house with a large yard. My biggest fear though is attracting mice. Any advice?

    • Alessandra says:

      I have the same fear, and doubt. I have two small children so I am afraid a compost pile might attract some unwanted animals such as mice and poisonous insects… Can you advise on that please?

  28. Rose McLeish says:

    Brittany,you are a good teacher…thanks for your interesting informative pin .Apart from the worm in my hand, I’ll be a good student.

  29. Valerie says:

    Has anyone had issues with the smell? I have a small yard in a densely populated area. I’d love to compost, but I’m worried the neighbors will complain, and I won’t want to enjoy my yard. Thoughts?

    • Valerie, our’s doesn’t smell like anything other than dirt. If you keep your scraps buried under dirt, it shouldn’t smell. Also be sure to add enough carbon items (newspapers, leaves, etc.) if your pile starts to get too wet.

  30. Patrick Dolan (oneyardrevolution) over on YouTube has a great perspective on composting and vermicomposting. I’ve been following him for awhile now, and have just purchased my second Geobin Composter from Amazon. It is soooooo easy to set up! I fill it with alternating layers of FREE resource materials: leaves from the curbside, coffee grinds from Starbucks, and, my own veggie peels.

    When I grabbed some bags of leaves I had stored away for the second composter, I took a step back from what I thought looked like a small snake. On careful inspection, it was one of the the biggest, prettiest earthworms I have ever seen. YAAAAY! I have worms! And, I have frogs!!! And, I’m turning my veggie garden into one of the healthiest ecosystems in my neighborhood!

    And, like Brittany, I am no longer having to purchase potting mixes. My goal is to have enough compost going to fill all my raised beds and planters, whenever they need topping off. And, like Patrick, my other goal is to stop having to purchasing fertilizers and pesticides, too. All benefits of moving toward naturally composted materials for the garden!

    Brittany, yours is an excellent tutorial. BTW, what you do is called “hole composting.” When I run out of space in my two Geobins, I’m gonna start digging and filling holes around my yard, to enrich the soil “outside the boxes,” LOL!

    Couple of Things:
    ►If you dig your hole deep enough before you put your kitchen scraps in, and cover it well, animals generally won’t mess with it — they can’t smell what’s in it…

    ►If your compost is smelly, it may be anaerobic – which means there’s not enough oxygen exchange taking place. Get yourself a good garden fork (I just bought the green handled one from Home Depot, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it) and TURN your pile to introduce some oxygen to it…

    ►Worms do not eat your garden waste. Tiny little microbes jump all over the organic material and begin breaking it down. The energy those microbes expend doing that is what causes the heat in your pile. You have heat, you have microbes working triple time, breaking down the organic matter. Your worms (earthworms or red wigglers), in turn, eat the microbes, that break down your garden material. Soldier fly maggots and/or pill bugs, and various other little creatures also do their part in breaking down the material.

    ►Used coffee grinds is like a dinner bell to a worm. If all you ever do is dig a hole and put your used coffee filter in it, they will come! The grinds also serve as grit to help the worms digest.

    Ok. That’s all folks!


  31. Can you use worms in a tumbler composter?

  32. How much does weather affect the process? I live in St. Louis & our weather can be up & down & different each day.

  33. Maggots and stink mentioned in previous posts, I’ve got a solution…The large plastic coffee containers (mine specifically being the red Folgers) are fantastic under the sink. Simply dump all the kitchen scraps, coffee filters, etc. and close the lids. It seals tight and never issues with bugs or smells (stinks only when opened to add more sometimes). When full, dump them in the outdoor compost, rinse with garden hose, wash in dishwasher. The outdoor compost in the meantime is being filled with leaves, plants, and other ‘brown’ ingredients. It’s been working for us for several years.


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