How to Get Started Composting

Whether you’ve lived in Maryland for only a little while or a long time, you know how the summers are hot and humid (often around 80 degrees) but the winters are harsh and cold (often 20 degrees), while the temperature throughout the rest of the year hovers at a comfortable 55 degrees. However, such drastic changes in temperatures aren’t good for plants, putting a lot of stress on them and often killing them.

Many people, like us, have searched for a solution to benefit the plants – to provide them a boost that will help keep them alive throughout the year. And we landed on composting! The age-old, traditional, amazing substance that you can create yourself. 

What is composting?

It’s simple! Composting is the making/recycling of organic matter, such as food scraps or leaves, into a rich fertilizer for plants! Compost doesn’t only benefit outdoor plants, so even if you don’t have much space or a yard, you can still help your indoor plants, which suffer from a lack of nutrients due to insufficient sun. 

Like we said before, outdoor plants suffer from temperatures, and indoor plants don’t get all the nutrients they need. In addition, the United States produces 108 billion pounds of food waste every year (roughly 40% of all food wasted). That’s wasting nearly $408 billion dollars every year. And to be honest – not many of us have the money to be able to waste food with a free conscience. That is why composting is the perfect solution and our go-to! 

However, getting composting started on your own can be a little difficult, so we have a product to help! 


LeafGro® is a soil amendment that is created at Montgomery County and Prince George County, where they process trimmings from yards (such as grass trimmings, or dead leaves) into a booster for your garden or compost pile. It’s especially useful for providing topsoil, which is extremely difficult to get a hold of if your garden or yard doesn’t have it already. It’s also useful in planting, and complimenting soil combinations you already have to provide nutrients. 

However, the aspect of LeafGro® that we are obsessed with is the ability to use it as a starter for your own composting system at home!

How does that work?

It’s quite an easy process, but we’ll break it down here. Here’s how you start your own composting system, and how LeafGro® can help!

To set up your own composting system, you’ll have to decide on a location for your bin or ‘pile’. Once you do that, you get a container, a tray to catch spillage from the container, dry bedding (leaves, sawdust, cardboard, newspaper, etc.), tools (often a drill, or nails and a hammer), and LeafGro®! Many people use basic soil instead of LeafGro®, but it often takes a lot longer to start their composting, and it doesn’t have as many nutrients. And don’t worry too much about the container. It can be any material, such as plastic or metal (it really doesn’t matter), but it does need to have a tight-fitting lid, and be placed in an area where it won’t fall over. For the tray, try to use metal, if you can find one. It’s much easier to clean.

I’ve got all my materials – now what do I do?

After deciding where your compost bin or pile will live, and you’ve collected your materials, it’s time to get started. 

Step 1

Punch holes in the side of your bin. The holes should be between a ½ inch to an inch big, and try to space them six to eight inches apart from one another. Be careful not to punch holes in the bottom of your bin, this will ruin it. 

Step 2

Line your tray with newspaper or tarp and put your bin onto it.

Step 3

Add a 3-inch layer of LeafGro®, and then place your dry bedding on top of it. We recommend leaves, because not only does it get rid of them (we all know trash people seem to struggle to take those leaves off our hands), but it’s an excellent and abundant source of dry bedding (just make sure it’s dry beforehand). However, you can also use other materials as dry bedding. Different materials have different nutrients, take different lengths of time to compost, and some can ruin your compost experience, so if you wish to use different dry bedding than the ones we’ve mentioned here and above, be sure to do your research.

Step 4

Determine what can be composted. Contrary to popular belief, not ALL food scraps can be composted. Some are toxic, others will bring or harbor habitats for insects to breed in, and in some cases, some food scraps rot and attract maggots, and ruin all your hard work as well as creating an unbearable stench. Paper towels, egg shells, potato bits, cooked rice, and that kind of thing are all great for composting.

Old flowers, leaves, yard waste, and tea bags/coffee grounds are also good. You can use paper and cardboard too, however, try to avoid using colored ink, as it contains quite a few chemicals. And while there are plenty of things you can and should use in your compost pile, there are also many things that aren’t.

Don’t ever put dairy products, ashes, lime, meat, bones, animal products, grease/fat, or oils into your composting bin. If you’re ever unsure of what you can or cannot compost, look it up, and check several websites before determining an answer (since some disagree). If you still can’t figure it out after looking it up, don’t risk it – better safe then sorry.

Step 5

Cut or shred your compostables. It sounds stupid, but cutting, shredding, or crushing your compostable materials into smaller bits makes everything easier, as it speeds up the composting process. 

Step 6

Add your compostables to the bin with an equal amount of dry bedding. Try to never add more compostables then dry bedding, because you’ll ruin the balance. Try to aim for a green-brown balance (that is, carbon to nitrogen ratio), and a good explanation on that can be found here: Also, always put the lid back on when you’re done.

Step 7

Stir, and add LeafGro® (you can use another soil but we suggest this one) once a week. You can turn it with a shovel or with your hands. Be sure to spread thinly.

Step 8

Add water. It doesn’t take much (you don’t want to flood your bin), but enough that the water is absorbed and wets the dry materials. You’ll know your compost is done when it smells like earth, or your original organic materials are no longer recognizable. The material should also crumble easily in your hand when it’s done.

That’s it?

Yes! It’s relatively easy to manage, and it benefits both your plants, you, and the earth! Of course, you may be wondering – how do I get my hands on LeafGro®? Give us a call! We can deliver it to your home and put it on your driveway, so you don’t have to haul it yourself or carry big heavy containers around. After all, no one likes having to find a truck or a friend who can help you carry everything, so we do our best to make the whole process simple and easy! Give Hawkins Landscape Supply a call today!

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