Good gardeners know the best soil comes from compost bins. Now that autumn is upon us with its relentless supply of dead leaves, it’s a great time to start your own compost bin so next season you’ll have the richest soil your plants have ever seen.

As much of our lives as we spend trying to rid ourselves of bacteria, these microbes are the magic ingredients in compost. Bacteria are necessary to break the plant matter down, and the process is hastened by the presence of creepy-crawlies such as worms, slugs and other bugs that eat from your compost pile and poop out nutrient-rich soil — sort of like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. The more heat generated by your compost, the faster the mixture turns.

Earth Tones

It’s not quite as easy as throwing some leaves and kitchen scraps into a pile and — poof! — compost. You have to have the right proportions of greens and browns. What are these? Greens are plant scraps like celery ends and cucumber peels, and browns are leaves, woodchips and even paper and coffee grounds. No chocolate milk, though.

And never put anything that once had a mother into a compost pile — rotting meat can attract maggots, rats or other undesirables. Plus, it would smell really bad.

Disproportionately Challenging

If your proportions are off, you won’t have enough nitrogen, and if you don’t have enough nitrogen, your pile may not heat up enough, and if your pile doesn’t heat up enough, you’re going to have a smelly, unhealthy mess instead of the great garden addition you wanted.

You may find conflicting advice online about the proper proportions — 2:1, 1:1, 1:2 — the truth is, it depends on the condition of your materials. Putting in lots of big grass clumps without breaking them up or not turning the pile often enough can lead to excess nitrogen. Turning it over more frequently should help until the problem abates.

DIY Compost Bin

You can buy a compost bin at your local hardware or home improvement store, but you also easily can make your own. The more expensive varieties rotate so you don’t have to manipulate the pitchfork yourself. You can buy or make a bin that’s small like a kitchen trash can, or if you have more space, you can have a three-bin system that turns out compost more quickly, but requires more work.

If you dream of composting but fear it’s too complicated or too much work, call on the experts at Earthworks Landscaping. We can supply you with truckloads of the finest soil in Utah. And we’ll even plant your trees and shrubs in it for you! You don’t have to get a compost bin to get compost — you just have to call us.