man throwing leaf debris onto his compost pile
Photo: David Carmack
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Myth: Compost smells bad

Reality: Not if you're making it right. The secret to keeping the stink out is creating a perfect balancing act between your "browns" (carbon-based plant material) and your "greens" (nitrogen-based plant material). The former can include leaves, twigs, and wood chips, shredded newsprint, and cardboard; the latter may contain fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds. Layer them in equal amounts in your pile, then aerate it once a week by turning it with a pitchfork. Never, ever add dairy products, greasy foods, or meat, which ­attract vermin as they rot. When properly maintained, a compost pile should have no smell at all.
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