Composting 101


The Town of Carleton Place has a long-standing commitment to the environment to ensure our community remains a place where families want to call home. The backyard composting rebate program is a direct result of proactive citizens wanting to contribute to the reduction of organic waste entering landfills.

A compost bin is an eco-friendly family project that anyone can start! Get the kids involved and teach them how a little change can make a huge difference.

Thank you for your interest in making Carleton Place a greener community.

What to Compost

GREENS – Coffee grounds, food waste (vegetable peelings, rotten fruit, rinsed egg shells), tea leaves, garden waste, grass clippings, hay, hops (used), manures, seaweed, weeds that have not gone to seed, pet hair.

BROWNS – Ashes, wood, bark, shredded cardboard, corn stalks, leaves, shredded newspaper, straw, pine needles, sawdust, stems and twigs (cut up).

NEVER COMPOST – Oils and fats, bread products, rice and pasta, sauces, dairy products, nuts, fish, meat and bones, pet droppings, weeds that have gone to seed, diseased plants, coloured paper, coal ash.

Getting Started:

  1. Select a site: In a sunny, well-drained and level location.
  2. Form base layer: Arrange a six-inch layer of coarse materials such as sticks, prunings, and bark pieces.
  3. Alternate layers: Add waste to the bin in layers alternating between green and brown.
  4. Moisten: Lightly water the pile. Pile should be damp.
  5. Cover: The compost pile should always be topped by a thick carbon (brown) layer. Using a lid will discourage rodents and other animals.
  6. Monitor: Each time you add to the pile, give it a look and a sniff.
  7. Add more layers: The pile will shrink as its contents decompose; continue adding material.


In the kitchen:

  • Cut food scraps into smaller pieces for faster decomposition.
  • A glass or metal container for collecting kitchen waste won’t hang onto odours the way plastics do. A tight fitting lid will keep the fruit flies out.
  • If the fruit flies bother you, store food scraps in the fridge or freezer.


  • Whenever you add a food layer (green or eggshells), top it with browns.
  • The beneficial microorganisms in your compost pile need oxygen. Leave lots of air space in your bin, and mix the contents every week or two.
  • Collect dry leaves and grass in a separate, dry container. Then you can add “browns” all year-round.
  • Don’t be alarmed if your pile steams or stinks — that means materials are decomposing.


  • Compost pile is wet and stinky
    • Problem: Too many greens
    • Solution: Add browns, turn pile, poke holes in it, and put scraps in the centre of the pile. Make sure the bottom is not continually waterlogged.
  • Pile is dry
    • Problem: Too many browns and not enough water
    • Solution: Add fresh kitchen scraps. Moisten the pile with water and cover to reduce evaporation.
  • Pile is cold
    • Problem: Lack of nitrogen
    • Solution: Add greens. Move to sunnier location.
  • Compost is attracting pests
    • Problem: Improper materials added, and insufficient coverage
    • Solution: Use a pest-resistant bin with secure lid. Avoid adding grease, oils, meats, and breads. Bury food material with thick layer of brown material.
  • Compost is attracting fruit flies
    • Problem: Food scraps are exposed
    • Solution: Put kitchen scraps in centre of pile and cover greens with browns.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • How long will it take?
    • This depends on the size of the pile, the ingredients used, and the amount of heat generated. Cold piles can take up to a year to decompose, but fully active piles can mature in three to four months.
  • Can I speed up the process?
    • Chop and shred larger items, making it easier for bacteria to break them down. Give your compost heap a “big meal” rather than small snacks. Collect all your organic waste over a couple of days and then add it in one big bunch. The more you add at one time, the more your compost will heat up. Keep your compost pile in the sun.
  • How Do I Use the Compost?
    • Add to potting soil for indoor seed-starting.
    • Use as mulch to protect plants’ roots.
    • Incorporate in to your garden to improve soil texture.
    • Make compost tea—by mixing finished compost with water and letting it sit for a couple of days. Apply compost tea to leaves or soil to provide your plants with a boost of nutrients.

Four Seasons of Composting

Spring – Stir well and add some soil to kick-start your composter. Dig out any finished compost from the bottom to use in your lawn or garden.

Summer – Keep your composter humming by stirring it frequently and covering fresh material with leaves or grass. If the compost looks dry, add some water.

Fall – Harvest Time! Clean our your compost and dig the finished material into your garden. If possible, save some leaves to add to your composter during the year.

Winter – With the colder temperatures your compost with decompose slower. Don’t worry, let it fill up. Once spring comes it will all decompose rapidly.