Simple Guide to Compost 101 at Home

Composting is a natural recycling process that breaks down organic matter such as food and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil. By adding compost to your garden, you can improve the quality of the soil and grow healthier plants–and save money on fertilizer and water bills in the process!

Composting in your garden or home will reduce your carbon footprint, create a sustainable environment for the future, and provide you with compost that is high in nutrients for plants.

To compost at home, all you need is some decent backyard space and a compost bin or tumbler. We recommend starting with an open, three-sided pile of organic matter (i.e., leaves, hay, grass clippings), which can be turned into finished compost in 10 to 12 months by adding kitchen scraps like eggshells, orange peels, and coffee grounds.

Why compost?

Composting is one of the best things you can do for the environment. It diverts waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, where organic material decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) to produce methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 100 years. 

Decomposing organic material also generates heat, which accelerates climate change even further. Methane traps 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide. More than 20% of U.S. methane emissions come from landfills, according to the EPA.

To put that into perspective, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the U.S., respectively.

Instead of sending your scraps to a landfill, you can compost them. Many communities provide composting services for free or a nominal fee, while others require you to drop off your containers at specific sites or pick up finished compost in exchange for fresh bags of soil

While all these may sound complicated to some people who are more into buying their way through gardening problems than doing things themselves naturally through composting, there are lots of reasons why it’s very fun–to do. For one, it’s a great way to get rid of garden waste while naturally enriching the soil to help your plants grow fuller and healthier. 

An added plus is that composting at home doesn’t require much space–you can easily make one in your backyard or even balcony using just an ordinary plastic bin or garbage can with holes drilled on the sides for airflow. Finally, composting makes gardening easier by saving you money spent on soil amendments like organic compost, mulch etc., since you’re making them yourself! So if you’re looking for ways to save money while nurturing your garden, then it’s time to start composting!

How to Compost 101

There are many different methods when it comes to composting at home; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

First, you need to determine if you have enough room in your yard for a compost pile. A general rule of thumb is about one square foot per person in your household. Keep in mind some backyard compost piles are as big as 4ft by 4ft by 3ft tall! That’s twelve square feet or 1/3 of an entire car parking space! You may not think you have enough room, but if this is something you’re interested in, go ahead and make yourself some space.  It will be time well spent.

Second, you need to pick out your compost container. You can find the one that works the best for you, whether it’s a tumbler, bin, or pile.

Third, start adding kitchen scraps (no meat products), dead plant material like dead leaves and clippings of plants you’ve pruned back or grass cuttings etc., straw or hay (if available), shredded junk mail – anything that was once alive and is now dead basically 🙂  Then mix it all up with some water (you can use your hands) until it’s like soil.  You’re done! It should only take about 10 minutes of work each week.

Now, wait at least 4-6 weeks before harvesting some compost to add to your plants.

If you’re looking to compost at your home, you will need a compost bin. This can be easily made and taken care of with the use of a small trashcan and some holes drilled along the side or bottom. You could also purchase one from a gardening store – but why spend money when you can make it yourself?

It takes time for all those pieces (microorganisms) to come together and ensure a healthy compost pile.

Start with a container that you can easily access, such as a plastic bin. Add layers of organic materials (e.g., leaves, grass clippings and household food scraps) alternating with layers of nitrogen-rich materials (e.g., hay, manure or seaweed).

Ingredients to include in compost:

One method for composting is active aeration, which requires turning over the contents of your bin regularly with a pitchfork or other tool. The other is passive aeration, which mixes things up a bit by adding air to the pile through a process called layering.

Don’t have a compost bin? Get one here!     You can also compost in your yard using a piling method. Just leave enough space for air to circulate your ingredients and be careful not to overcrowd your compost area because that will slow down decomposition rates. To ensure quick, complete decomposition, it’s important to use a mixture of carbon-rich “brown” items (which include leaves, small twigs and straw) and nitrogen-rich “green” items (including fruit peels and other scraps). 

Pro tip: Chop up larger pieces before you add them to your bin; this speeds decomposition.   

Vegetation – Leaves, brush, straw, hay or grass clippings are all great first ingredients for your compost pile because they are high in carbon.

Fruits and vegetables – Vegetable peels, seeds, fruit rinds and eggshells are great food scraps to add to your compost pile because they are high in nitrogen.

Manures – Manures from herbivores such as cows, horses or sheep make excellent compost ingredients because they also contain both carbon and nitrogen in addition to other healthy minerals for plants.

Microorganisms in a compost bin: Microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes that exist all around us in the air, water and soil. These organisms feed on organic materials in our compost bins just as they would in nature so when added regularly your waste breaks down faster.

Start composting

Once you have your compost bin in place, add a layer of browns, followed by a thin layer of greens to introduce oxygen. Repeat this process until your pile is about three feet tall and then leave it alone for a few weeks. 

The compost will settle as the ingredients decompose and become concentrated with nutrients, so don’t be alarmed if things look kind of dry when you check on them from time to time.    

Your compost should be finished in six months to one year. To determine whether or not your compost is good enough to use as fertilizer, put a handful of moist material in a clear glass jar and let it sit outside for 4-7 days. When the compost is ready, you shouldn’t see any signs of fermentation (bubbles, slime). 

Be sure to keep your compost pile well-maintained and moist—not soggy—at all times. If it starts to smell sour or unpleasant when touched, add more “green” ingredients and mix in a few handfuls of dry leaves and mulch for extra carbon.   

What if I live in an apartment?

Apartment-dwellers still have plenty of great options for recycling their food scraps into nutrient-rich soil; read on to learn about indoor composting techniques. 

Indoor composting is ideal for apartment dwellers because it doesn’t require much space or time. All you need is a glass jar with holes punched in the lid or an old coffee can, some pebbles or marbles to act as weights for your compost bag, and biodegradable kitchen bags for collecting scraps. 

Collect Ingredients       

Your most important ingredient will be proper nitrogen-rich material (known as green), which is available at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for between $3-5 per pound. You can also compost fruit and vegetable scraps that would otherwise go into the trash—be creative! Avoid adding meat products, dairy products, bones/shells (exception: banana peels) and oily foods (like avocados ) to your compost they don’t decompose easily.

Keep It Healthy       

Start with a few tablespoons of green material inside your jar or can, followed by a handful of brown ingredients to balance out the ratio. Mix it up by adding two or three spoonfuls of soil from outside into the mix every couple of days. This will introduce microorganisms that improve nutrient absorption and neutralize any harmful chemicals. 

Be sure to keep your compost moist at all times—not soggy! If it starts to smell sour or unpleasant when touched, add more “green” ingredients and mix in a few handfuls of dry leaves and mulch for extra carbon.

Watch Your Ingredients Compost                       

You’ll know your compost is ready when it’s dark, rich-looking and crumbly. You can then transfer your compost into a bag or jar, add some water to dilute the mixture (to avoid burning plant roots), cover tightly with a lid and store it in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.                

Compost is an excellent fertilizer for indoor plants; simply mix it in with potting soil at a ratio of two parts soil to one part compost. Be sure not to apply too much fertilizer at once (it could burn leaves) and always follow package instructions before adding any new substances.

You can also buy organic compost at gardening supply stores but making one on your own will save you money, plus you’ll know it’s just the right mix of ingredients that your plants need. 

You can create your compost by mixing waste materials like eggshells, egg cartons, coffee grounds, grass clippings, used paper towels or napkins, fallen leaves, twigs and small branches with garden soil. It should be moist but not too wet–test this by taking a handful of it and squeezing tightly. If you see water dripping out slowly, then the compost is ready to use.

As the most obvious first step towards composting, you have to determine what type of compost bin is best for your particular situation. Compost bins are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes that vary depending on the result you want. You can build your own or purchase one or more commercially as well as which type of animal matter (if any) will be included as well as how often it will be monitored and maintained. ​

Types

There are several types of composting:

Worms  

This would be considered by many to be the easiest method since there is no turning required and it takes up relatively little space inside or outside of your home. This process should take about six months and if done correctly, will also produce a product called vermicompost which is great for your plants. 

Compost Pile 

This is the composting method most people are familiar with since it’s also commonly used to dispose of yard waste. It’s usually made up of different layers that consist of nitrogen-rich materials on the bottom followed by green matter, brown matter and finally top dressing which could be soil or another organic material. 

The key to this type is turning the pile regularly so Roxy some items should gen can reach all sections which speed up decomposition and reduces unpleasant odours. If you use this item should method, expect it to take anywhere from three months to a year before you have usable compost depending on the size of the pile.

Tumbler Some items should

These are often cylindrical Some items should and can be made from a variety of materials including wood, wire mesh and even plastic. Tumblers are easy to use since you only have to turn them periodically so oxygen can reach the composting material which speeds up decomposition. Compared to a compost pile, these units will typically produce compose items shouldest that some items should more quickly but they also tend to be more expensive.

Worm Towers Some items should

These units work by having worms inside of them as well as distribution piping that allows for proper oxygen flow. They’re relatively small and can fit on a patio or porch easily but some people do have problems with odour if they’re not maintained properly ​

Hot composting  

This method is considered ideal because it results in a final product that’s also weed-free which makes it great for using in your garden. It’s typically used in conjunction with a compost pile or tumbler and the process will take about three weeks from start to finish. The heat produced by this method also kills any plant diseases that may be present in the soil you’ll be adding to your plants.

Cold composting 

This is a much slower process since you’re letting nature take its course naturally over a longer period. However, because there isn’t any additional work involved, it can be a good choice if you don’t have a lot of space to devote to composting in general. Depending on the material being composted, it could take anywhere from one year up to five years before the final product is finished. This type of composting doesn’t kill any plant diseases that may be present in the soil either which means you’ll need to use it carefully in your garden until you’re sure none are present.

FAQ

How do you compost for beginners?

Composting is a process in which organic materials like leaves and grass, garden trimmings and other debris decompose to create nutrient-rich waste used to enrich soil quality. You can compost at home indoors or outdoors with or without a composter.

Composting is beneficial for the environment for several reasons: It reduces landfill waste, saves space since it requires less room than throwing all organic material into the trash, saves on water bills by not having to pay for lawn care and reduces fertilizer costs. Compost also benefits your yard in that it improves soil structure and helps retain moisture in the ground so you use less water in the yard.

What are the 4 things needed to make compost?

the 4 things needed to make compost are air, water, warmth(sun), and some kind of organic matter.

What should you not put in compost?

There are some items that should be kept away from compost piles. Bananas, meat, fish and dairy products do not comprise the ideal compost mix since they rot slowly, if at all. Additionally, you should keep in mind that some plants may not agree with others. For example, tomatoes repel most other plants while aloe also has a toxic effect on many plants so it is best to avoid the two types of plants within close contact.

These articles usually say “NO” or “DO NOT” … don’t put this or that item in your compost

Some items should

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