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Hello Growing Club,

I purchased a compost bin at one of the LA County Smart Gardening classes. I’ve been saving vegetable and fruit peel scraps for a while now and storing them in the freezer until my husband put the bin together. It’s now together and I’m not sure where to begin. It doesn’t have a bottom to it he says. Is that common? If so what’s the first layer I should put down green or brown or does it matter? He and I are both very new at all of this.

– Nettie Wilson-Johnson

Answer

Hi Nettie,

Great question and congratulations for starting composting! You are in for a fun learning adventure. It sounds like you bought a bin for starting a traditional compost pile (not a worm composting bin). To answer your first question, yes it is common to not have a bottom to your bin, in fact its great. That will allow microbes from your soil to come into your compost and for the reverse to happen as well.

For starting your compost bin, remember that the ratio of green (nitrogen-rich) material to brown (carbon-rich) material is very important. You want to have a 50-50 mix of these materials. Kitchen waste is a green material (along with animal manure and any fresh leaves). Brown material would be exactly that: brown (carboard, newspaper, dried leaves, wood chips, wood shavings etc.). To start your bin, mix the kitchen waste you have saved with an equal amount of brown material, and put it in your bin. Add water until the mixtures is moist, but not wet. If the pile starts heating up by the next day and doesn’t have a putrid smell, you’ve done a good job. If there is no heat, add more green material (or urinate on the pile). If there is a bad smell, add more brown material. Keep the pile moist, and turn it whenever it starts to get really hot. That should be all you need to get started!

You may also want to look into starting a worm compost bin if you are mostly compost food waste. They will be much easier to take care of and give you a better compost in the end.

Hope that helps! Happy Gardening!

-Rishi