Composting for Beginners

It may not be common knowledge how beneficial compost is for your garden, but it’s becoming more and more of the norm for people to do their own composting right in their home. But what is compost and the process of composting, anyways? Keep reading to learn the basics as well as how you can start composting in your very own home.

What Is Compost and What Are its Benefits?

Earthworms in soil.

Compost is defined as decomposed organic matter that can be used as plant fertilizer. Using this substance has an array of benefits. Earthworms, crickets, and other life forms that are important to your local ecology will be energized by the compost's microscopic bacteria and fungi. Many of these fungi and substances have positive and mutually beneficial relationships with plant roots, allowing growing vegetables and plants to feed themselves efficiently. Compost also plays a role in assisting soil to retain its moisture, which further enhances the growth, health, and even flavor of your plants. Compost further reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and reduces your carbon footprint by belittling methane emissions from landfills. In fact, the act of composting allows you to remove up to 500 pounds of organic matter from your household waste per year—which is quite an impressive statistic.

What Is the Process of Composting?

A compost bin full of food scraps.

With that being said, to get this beneficial end product, one must go through the process of composting. While you can certainly purchase compost, a homemade substance is the most advantageous to your garden. Items that will go into your composting container or pile could be yard trimmings, wood chips, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and manures. To allow items to compost correctly, you will need to place them in a specified area that is suitable for decomposition. This will allow for the controlled process of these organic materials naturally converting to compost.

How to Compost Outdoors

A compost bin.

While this process may seem intimidating, it's actually quite simple. You can even do it right in your own backyard! Before you do, you will need to decide whether or not you want to make a general uncovered pile of compost, or use a bin. If you choose to use a bin, you can find one at your local hardware store. Many people do prefer to use one because this hides the rotting waste in your backyard, which homeowners don’t enjoy looking at day after day if you have a small yard. Stationary compost bins are probably the most common option, as they have the largest capacity. Typically, they are a dark color to help attract and maintain heat. They also have a lid to prevent yard critters from sneaking in. These also possess one or two doors that allow users to remove compost that is ready for use.

The length of time it takes for compost to be ready differs from area to area as climate has an effect, and whether or not you frequently “turn” the material, which determines how quickly it will be ready. These containers make it more difficult to turn the inside matter, meaning you may need to wait longer for the finished product. The other common option is a compost tumbler, which holds slightly less material, but gets you an end result quicker. These containers make it convenient to turn your compost matter to speed up the process, and the ease of turning is a hit with users. Some do complain that they are tough to empty and that they don’t hold much, though, which is feedback to consider.

If you want to simply make an outdoor pile rather than using a bin, ensure you choose a spot that is shady and dry, but close to a water source. Once you choose your container or decide to make a general pile, follow the steps below to make your own compost outside:

  1. Ensuring that all of your chosen materials such as grass clippings, yard trimmings, vegetable scraps, or wood chips are adequately shredded or chopped into small pieces, slowly acquire a collection of materials.

  2. As you add materials to the pile or bin, ensure that you add moisture to continue the evolution of your compost.

  3. As your pile grows, grass clippings and green waste should be mixed into it and fruit and vegetable scraps should always be buried under alternate waste 10 inches deep.

It’s that simple! After that, you just need to wait until your compost is ready. The easiest way to tell it's ready is that it looks like very dark soil.

How to Compost Indoors

A woman scraping food scraps into a bucket in kitchen.

If you don’t have the space or desire to compost outdoors, you can also do it inside. This is ideal for people who have a lot of kitchen waste and want to put it to good use. Basically anything other than meat, bones, and fatty materials can be added to this pile. Items like coffee grinds, egg shells, banana peels, and leafy greens can all be added to your indoor composting bin.

To choose an indoor container, you have to decide how much space you want to dedicate to it and what your budget is. There are containers that use worms to break down the contents, which is regarded as the quickest method of breaking down waste that prevents odors. There are some that use fermentation, which makes for a longer process. In addition, there are bins that have multiple layers or drawers, but most options are just one bin with a singular compartment.

To facilitate the process of composting indoors with your chosen container, simply add in your kitchen waste on a day-to-day basis, ensure there is adequate moisture, and let the bin and time take care of the rest. Soon enough, you’ll have the fertilizer you need to nourish your garden!

Composting at home is certainly not the most glamorous of DIY projects, but it certainly is a simple one that has a wide range of benefits. Start today and have a healthier and more robust garden in no time, plus know that you’re doing your part for the health of the earth, too!