What You Need to Know About How to Compost
Whether you have a garden and you’re looking for nutrient-rich food that can help your plants prosper or you’re simply interested in reducing your waste, creating a compost pile is a great option. If you’re not sure how to begin, this informative guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to compost.
Benefits of Composting
When food scraps end up in the landfill, they lack the air they need to decompose quickly. Instead, they end up creating harmful methane gas. An abundance of methane gas in the atmosphere is one of the leading causes of global warming and climate change.
Many landfills around the world are quickly filling up and closing down, which means companies have to take away more wild space to create new landfills. By diverting food scraps away from the landfill and into compost bins, we can cut down on the amount of waste we produce. This helps our landfills last longer and protects our wild spaces.
Not only is composting good for the environment, but it’s also great for your garden. After all, there’s a reason why gardeners call compost “black gold” and why I recommend people who want to homestead learn how to do it.
Compost creates a rich humus that gives your plants the nutrients they need. It also helps the soil retain moisture, which means you can save money by not needing to water as much. Additionally, compost contains microscopic organisms that help aerate the soil and ward off different types of plant diseases.
Compost Pile or Compost Tumbler?
Now that you know more about the benefits of composting, you’re likely ready to get your own compost pile going. If you’re feeling intimidated about where to begin, don’t worry. It’s not as complicated as it seems.
To get started, you first need to decide whether you want to make a compost pile or use a compost tumbler.
If you have the yard space and don’t mind using a garden fork to turn your compost, you can create a compost pile for little to no money. If you have a smaller space or need some help with turning, a compost tumbler is a better option.
We don’t have a lot of extra outdoor space and I have a bad wrist from an old injury, so we decided a compost tumbler would best suit our needs. After a lot of research, we opted to get this compost tumbler.
I highly recommend it if you decide to get a compost tumbler because it’s easy to turn, the compartments are large and spacious, and the double-bin design means we can let one side “cook” while we load food scraps in the other side.
What Can I Compost?
You can compost just about any organic material from your kitchen and yard. Things you can compost include:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags and loose-leaf tea
- Eggshells (ideally crushed)
- Newspaper and paper (ideally torn or shredded)
- Paper towels
- Dryer lint (only from natural fibers, such as cotton)
- Pet fur
- Fireplace ashes
- Cardboard (ideally torn or shredded)
- Grass clippings and yard trimmings
- Straw and hay
- Wood chips
We toss in food scraps that still have seeds, such as bell pepper cores and tomato slices. If you do the same thing, keep in mind that seeds that don’t fully break down can sprout when you spread your compost. This means you might end up with some surprise vegetable plants in your flower bed!
What Can’t I Compost?
While you can compost almost all organic material, there are certain items you don’t want to compost since they can create unpleasant odors, attract pests, or make a compost that’s not safe to use in food gardens. These items include:
- Meat scraps
- Meat or fish bones
- Dairy products
- Egg whites and yolks
- Grease, fat, and oil
- Human waste
- Pet waste and cat litter
- Black walnut tree leaves and twigs
- Seeded weeds
- Pesticide-treated yard trimmings
- Diseased or infected plants
- Charcoal ash
How to Compost
Once you decide whether to use a pile or tumbler, you’re ready to begin. Follow these steps to start composting:
- Begin by adding some compost starter that will help speed up the composting process.
- Add your food scraps and other compostable items.
- Try to add equal amounts of green waste (food scraps, grass clippings, etc.) and brown waste (dry leaves, cardboard, paper).
- Keep the compost moist by adding water or letting the rain do its job.
- Turn the compost every few weeks to aerate the pile and let in oxygen.
- Keep your compost covered to maintain heat and moisture.
How Long Does Composting Take?
Depending on the conditions in your pile or bin, composting can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
If you’re not seeing a lot of progress, add more green waste and make sure your pile stays moist. If your pile starts to get too soggy or smelly, add more brown waste and turn more frequently.
It’s important to remember that the items you add to your pile will break down faster in warmer weather and slower in cooler weather.
You’ll know your compost is ready when it’s dark brown, looks like soil without any large chunks of organic material, and has an earthy smell to it.
What Can I Do With Compost?
Once your compost is ready, it’s time to remove it and start using it. Most tumblers have a door that you can open to let the compost out. Simply put a wagon under the tumbler, open the door, and let the compost fall out.
Here are some different ways you can use your compost:
- Combine it with soil in a container garden, raised-bed garden, or in-ground garden.
- Sprinkle it on top of vegetable gardens, flower gardens, and landscape beds.
- Spread it over your lawn for fertilizer.
Remember, compost isn’t a replacement for soil, it’s an enhancement. Therefore, it works best if you add it to existing soil a few times a year.
Tips to Make Composting Easier
Get a small container that you can leave in your kitchen to hold your food scraps. I recommend this container because it’s small enough to stay on our windowsill yet large enough to hold several days’ worth of food scraps. It’s also smooth inside, which makes it easier to clean out.
Coming up with enough green waste from your kitchen food scraps shouldn’t be a problem. To make sure you always have enough brown waste to add, consider leaving a small bin filled with brown leaves and sticks next to your compost bin. Then you can simply add a container of brown waste after every container of green waste.
Composting at Home
Don’t let those food scraps go to waste! Now that you know how to compost, you’re ready to create a nutrient-rich additive that will help your garden thrive and protect our planet from climate change.
More Eco-Friendly Living Tips
Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about how to compost, are you ready for even more excellent eco-friendly living tips? Then be sure to check out some of our other popular posts:
- Fast Growing Vegetables for a Quick Harvest
- Best Vegetables That Grow in Shade
- How to Make Soap Nut Liquid Laundry Detergent
- How to Make Beeswax Wraps
- Incredibly Easy Vegetarian Pantry Recipes