How to recycle yard and kitchen scraps for garden soil

A well-made compost pile turns waste material into rich garden humus in a few months. Build the pile in layers, alternating 8- to 12-inch thicknesses of waste with 2-inch layers of soil. Include green plants, grass clippings, old leaves, egg shells, and shredded newspaper (not more than 10 percent of the latter). Don’t compost wood, diseased plants, corncobs, cheese, milk, meat, or grease. Press down each layer. For fast results, sprinkle on a little 10-6-4 fertilizer and, on alternate layers, a generous dusting of lime. Water each layer and subsequently keep the pile damp.

Compost can be piled unsupported, but a bin is neater-and because air must reach the compost, the bin cannot be solid. The easiest kind to make is a wire-mesh pen 3 feet or more in diameter. Form a cylinder from a length of mesh 3 to 4 feet wide and secure it by hooking the cut wire ends around the mesh.

For a more sightly bin, make four slatted wood frames about 3 feet high, using redwood, cedar, or pressure treated lumber. Nail three of them together, and complete the rectangle with two stretchers. Hinge the fourth side or attach it with hooks and eyes to make it removable.

Dig a shallow pit for the bin and put a layer of straw or loose brush in the bottom. Then add waste, layer by layer. Periodically rebuild the heap, moving outside matter toward the center. The compost is ready when it is dark brown, crumbly, and nearly odorless.