Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

Compost Information

Hopefully you have watched the composting videos.

You’ll need 12 1/2′ of welded wire or “hog wire” fencing
50 pounds of pellet-type rabbit food. This is the source of nitrogen for your compost pile
About 15 bags of leaves

Select a location out from under trees and away from bushes. Their roots will come up into the compost pile
At least 30′ away from natural water sources like streams, creeks, lakes or wells in case of nitrogen runoff
Convenient to a garden hose
Close to the house so you will use it often

Turn your pile one week after you assemble it and then every 3-4 weeks, at least. The more often you turn it the faster is will break down.

Your pile should not smell, but you may notice an odor when you turn it, especially the first time. This is normal

Here’s a listing of what you can use and what you should not use in your compost pile.

Fruits/Vegetable peels, stems
Egg Shells
Coffee Grounds/Filters
Tea leaves and bags
Hard-shelled nuts (crushed)
Wood ash
Peanut Shells
Canning/preserving wastes
Stale Bread
Egg Shells
Used paper towels/napkins
Manure from horses, cows, chickens

Not Acceptable:
Animal by-products such as meat, fat or bones
Dog droppings
Cat litter and droppings
Charcoal Ashes
Chemically treated plant material, including grass
Invasive weeds or plants
Diseased or infested plants
Glossy/slick paper
Poisonous or thorny plants

Where to use your compost:
New garden beds and plantings
Dig in 2″-3″ of compost in the top 6″
Vegetable gardens/transplants
2″-3″ on beds and into each hole
Existing garden beds
1″ layer around plants
Natural Areas
1/2″ under mulch
Side Dressings for trees/shrubs
Scratch 1/2″ of compost starting 1″ out from trunk of plant out to the drip line
After aeration, spread 1/2″ of compost and rake in
2/3 potting soil, 1/3 compost when transplanting or put 1″ top dressing on existing potted plants

Compost Tea
Put about 4-6″ of compost in a 5 gal bucket and add water. Let the compost steep overnight if possible. The next day, strain off the compost and use the compost tea on your plants. Not just around the base but if you can, pour it over the whole plant, leaves and all. It won’t burn your plant and gives them a dose of nutrious compost


  Sally wrote @

Thank you for new info–used paper towels and napkins-for the compost pile. We usually keep 4 going and never buy potting soil for veggies and flowers.

  John wrote @

What kind of ingredients do I need to get a compost tumbler going?

  John wrote @

I watched your compost pile vedio and it has really good info. I have a 55 gallon compost tumbler at home but it hasnt been working great at all. I only have put in lawn clippings and leaves. I have added some water. all my mowing goes in here. can I add dried horse manure in here?

  smelllikedirt wrote @

Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately, I do not have any experience with a tumbler so I can’t help other than say yes, you should be able to use the horse manure. The tumbler will need the same 4 ingredients, Nitrogen, Carbon, Air and Water that any composter will need. I did find this blog post about tumblers.

Good Luck and sorry I couldn’t be more help!

  douggreen wrote @

Hi – your recipe for compost tea will produce an anaerobic tea that will not contain many beneficial microorganisms – what you may want to consider is aerated compost tea that will produce an environment where beneficial microorganisms develop. This is particularly true for your readers who use manure of any kind. Anaerobic teas will allow the e-coli to survive.

  composter wrote @

My understanding is that tumblers generally do not hold as much compost as bins do.

  Chip wrote @

Can I use an old truck bed liner for a compost bin If I put some holes in it?

  smelllikedirt wrote @

It would be pretty shallow wouldn’t it? It may work but I doubt you’ll reach the optimum temperature of 150-160 in a shallow pile like that.

But give it a go and let me know how it does! Send me a pic and I’ll do a posting on it.


  nathalie wrote @


I’m wondering why we can’t/shouldn’t use animal excrement in compost. I heard that rabbit droppings are good for plant soil, so I was hoping to compost my rabbit’s droppings. Can you let me know more about this? Thank you so much.

  smelllikedirt wrote @

Thanks for your comment and yes, you can use manure from herbivores: rabbits, cows, horses, sheep, etc. Even though it is technically “brown” it would be considered the green, or nitrogen, ingredient for the compost instead of the rabbit food. Consider using about the same amount and you may need to play with the ratios to get your temperature just right.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  john wrote @

i have a compost pile that is getting to big for my container. it is fall and i havn’t built my garden yet. can i put the excess dirt where my garden will be in the spring or will the compost loss its nutrients.

  smelllikedirt wrote @

Yes you can go ahead and spread your compost now. You don’t have to wait until the spring. The nutrients will still be in the soil waiting for your first plantings! Thanks for the comment and good luck with your compost.

  Tracy wrote @

How long from the start of my compost pile do I wait before using the compost?

  smelllikedirt wrote @

Tracy, the more you turn it the faster you will get compost, but if you turn it every 3-4 weeks, you should have compost in 3-4 months. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

  Earll wrote @

I started my compost March 1st and is working so well that it has dropped 2 feet all ready/ Whin can I add more leaves to it? Do I need to add more raddit food to it as well ?

  david wrote @

very nice blog, I am glad I found it

  David wrote @

Thanks for such great information on composted. I have been composting, or at least trying to, for years. I have now learned a lot. The first thing I will be doing is moving my pile to a different location. It has been under the trees where it does not get any sun or as much rain as possible. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: