How To: Compost At Home

How To, Sustainable Living

I’m so thankful you’re here learning how to compost!! I am truly amazed by compost – as my house of two composted into a small two-bin system for 9 months before having to dump it – saving an ENORMOUS amount of waste from going to the landfill. Composting is the process of decomposing “brown” and “green” organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that you can easily compost in your own backyard! Whatever brought you here, I want to share a few of the benefits of composting at home:
  • You can use it to enrich soil because it helps to retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. Because of its help in retaining moisture – it wastes less water and reduces water runoff!
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers because it contains plenty of nutrients that you put into it!
  • Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and improves plant growth (as well as protecting plants from drought and freezes!)
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
    • In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.
    • 9% of greenhouse gasses from food emissions come from food thrown away by retailers and consumers.

What Can You Compost At Home?

Food scraps are the most common thing people hope to compost at home – reducing their waste!

Greens (Wet & Nitrogen Rich)

Fruits and vegetables (including rinds)
Eggshells
Coffee grounds and compostable filters
Compostable Teabags
Flowers
Fresh Grass Clippings

Browns (Dry and Carbon Rich)

Shredded newspaper
Cardboard
Paper
Yard trimmings
Grass clippings
Houseplants
Hay and straw
Leaves
Sawdust
Wood chips
Hair and fur
Fireplace ashes

What Can’t I Compost?

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides

Which composting method should I choose?

When deciding how to go about traditional composting there are a few things to consider: How much space you have and how much involvement you want in the process.

Traditional Backyard Composting

A backyard compost pile needs space to put it, and it takes a bit more time and effort. Plan on being extra careful about what you put in because it can attract pests and rodents. Keep it moist, watering if it gets dry, and you have to mix by hand. You will also need to protect it from rain and frost.

Still interested? All you need to do is find a dry, shady spot in your yard. Add in your brown and green organic materials. Keep it moist by watering or keeping a tarp over it. Turn it (or mix it) every 3-5 weeks. It will be ready anywhere from two years to two years depending on your conditions.

Indoor Composting

For this post – I won’t be talking about indoor composting in detail, but it can easily be done through means of aerobic composting or vermicomposting (using worms). It’s perfect for those who don’t have a backyard or limited space. It is also good for people in areas with frequently varying weather conditions. If you’re interested in indoor composting check out this post.

Tumbler Composter

Our composter can be used indoors (like in a garage) or outdoors.

I love our composter because it is small, with a footprint coming in around 5 cu ft. It is made with recycled plastic (win!). Is rodent proof. It has two sides – one that you add compost to, and one that you let cure. It’s extremely affordable. AND the best part is that it is super easy to move the compost around because it’s a tumbler!

With this type of tumbler composter (or similar) composting is almost a no-brainer – you just have to add the organics and wait about two weeks for ready-to-use compost!

Final notes

Still not sure what it means for your compost to be ready to use? Compost is ready when it looks, feels, and smells like rich, dark earth rather than rotting vegetables. It should be dark brown, crumbly, and smell like the earth.

A few final notes:

  • The hotter it is, the faster your compost pile will cure. If it is cold, it will take much longer to compost.
  • The rate of composting will depend on the number of compost materials you add, and the right ratio of greens to brown you have in the mixture.
  • Aeration is the key, which is why you have to mix it, but it will take less mixing if your ratios are right!

Happy composting! Have any questions or comments? Leave them below! 

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