Alicia DeVore

Did you know that instead of throwing out those kitchen scraps, leaves and grass clippings – everyday items we usually just discard – they can actually become an amazing resource for your garden in making healthy soil?

Make the most of these materials by incorporating them into your green bin to create a flourishing outdoor space by reading this blog post of 5 reasons why composting at home benefits your garden soil.

When I first started composting, I had no idea what I was doing. Setting up your compost, knowing what type of composter will work best for your living space, and knowing how to use it properly will save you time as you learn this new skill. By adding a composter to your home, you will be benefitting your future healthy soil and reducing waste.

great compost is like gold for your garden

What Does Composting Make You Think of?

When I first heard of composting, the thought of putting garbage that I normally would throw away into a container that I would then put into my garden sounded ridiculous.

First of all, why would I want something stinky in my tiny yard? How would I know what to add to it? How does that trash actually help and become something completely transforming to a backyard garden?

As I learned more about gardening, I also started using a compost bin and watching what happened to those table scrapes and grass clippings over time.

Composting is generally viewed as a positive and sustainable practice by many people. It is seen as a way to reduce waste, improve soil health, and create nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants.

However, some people may have concerns about the smell or potential pests that can come with composting or may not have the space or resources to do it themselves. Composting is becoming increasingly popular as more people become aware of its benefits to your garden soil.

Make the most of these materials by incorporating them into your green bin to create a flourishing outdoor space by reading this blog post of 5 reasons why composting at home benefits your garden soil.

Adding food scraps can benefit your garden

Here are 5 Reasons Why Composting Benefits Your Garden Soil

  1. Food Waste Really is Black Gold

    Compost is often referred to as “black gold” because of its incredible value as a soil amendment. Just like gold, compost is highly sought after and prized for its many benefits. Compost is rich in nutrients and organic matter, which helps to improve soil structure. It helps to retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for watering. The nutrients in compost are released slowly over time, providing plants with a steady source of nourishment. Compost is a valuable resource that can help to improve soil health, conserve water, and reduce waste. Its many benefits make it truly deserving of the nickname “black gold”.

  2. Compost Provides Benefits to Soil Surface

    Dirt is usually what gardeners start with when digging and planting directly in the ground. Dirt become soil as nutrients from compost is added and more life is given back. Adding compost to your soil will improve its consistency and hold the water better.

3. Compost Provides a Balanced Source of Plant Nutrients

Even with great soil, for one season doesn’t mean that your soil will remain nutrient dense and productive without replenishment. Compost brings nutrients in a way that uses natural resources. These types of nutrients can be found synthetically but do not replenish like composter for home compost pile can do.

The nutrients can be found gradually in the plant’s diet over the course of several months and years. It also helps plants re-absorb nutrients from fertilizer more quickly by adding microorganisms to their soil.

4. Compost is a Security Deposit for Future

Compost can be thought of as a security deposit for the future because it is an investment in the health and productivity of the soil. Just like a security deposit is an upfront payment to ensure that a property is well-maintained and returned in good condition, composting involves adding organic matter to the soil to improve its quality and fertility.

We are creating a foundation for healthy plant growth and ensuring that future generations will have access to nutritious food.

Composting reduces waste by diverting organic materials from landfills, which helps to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and preserve natural resources. Overall, composting is a sustainable practice that benefits both present and future communities.

5. Composting Reduces Climate Change & Pollution

It is primarily a process of composting that diverts discarded food from landfills. Less rotting foods at landfills means less carbon emissions as well as reduced risks of pollution from water resources and wastewater.

Composting has become an important practice on both residential scales as well as commercial and municipal levels. There are progressively more industrial or commercial composting stations based at sites where huge volumes are stored and kept from decomposing.

Our role in helping for the reduction of pollution is crucial. If each home was able to compost then the need for a garbage dump would be reduced.

Using a small bucket to keep throw away scraps for larger compost bin.

How to Start Composting?

With so many composting options to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your home and lifestyle.

Take some time initially to measure out how much space you have available – this will give you a great starting point as you explore all of the creative ideas around backyard (or balcony) composting.

Steps to Get Started Composting:

  1. Find a compost bin that fits your space – there are many small-scale options available online or at gardening stores.

  2. Choose what to compost – food scraps that are compostable materials like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells are great choices.

  3. Store your compostables in a container with a lid in your kitchen.

  4. Empty the container into your compost bin regularly.

  5. Add some brown material like shredded paper or leaves to balance out the nitrogen-rich food scraps.

  6. Mix it up every few days with a pitchfork or shovel to keep air flowing and speed up decomposition to create finished compost.

Compost to put into the garden for soil health

Apartment Living Compost Systems

Composting is not just for people who have a yard or garden. If you live in an apartment, there are still ways to compost your food waste and reduce your environmental impact. Here are some options:

  1. Use a countertop compost bin: You can purchase a small compost bin that fits on your kitchen counter or under the sink. These bins usually have a charcoal filter to prevent odors and can be emptied into a larger outdoor composter or taken to a community composting site.

  2. Vermicomposting or worm composting: This is the process of using worms to break down food scraps and produce nutrient-rich soil. You can purchase a worm bin or make one yourself using plastic bins and bedding material such as shredded newspaper.

    I had a worm bin indoors for years in our tiny home in Los Angeles in my oldest son’s room. It never smelled and we produced lots of worm castings and worm tea from that little square box. It was an excellent choice for a worm composter.

  3. Bokashi composting: This method uses beneficial microbes to ferment food waste instead of breaking it down through traditional composting methods. The fermented waste can then be buried in soil or added to an outdoor composter.

  4. Community composting: Many cities now have community composting programs where residents can drop off their food scraps at designated locations for composting.

Regardless of which method you choose, remember to avoid adding meat, dairy, fats, oils, and pet waste to your compost pile. With a little effort, you can turn your food waste into valuable soil amendments in the form of finished compost even if you live in an apartment.

Options for small composting systems:

Pursonic Food Waste Composter

idoo Smart Kitchen Composter

Small Backyard Compost Systems

Here are a few options:

  1. Compost Tumblers – A tumbler composter is a container that rotates, making it easy to mix the compost and speed up the decomposition process. This type of composter is great for small spaces as it takes up less room than other options.

  2. Worm Composting – Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, uses worms to break down food scraps and other organic materials. This method is ideal for smaller backyards or even indoor use because it doesn’t require as much space as traditional composting.

  3. Compost Pile – A compost pile is simply a heap of organic material that decomposes over time. It’s an affordable option that requires minimal maintenance, but it does take up more space than other options.

  4. Compost Bin – A compost bin is similar to a tumbler composter but doesn’t rotate. It’s typically made of wood or plastic and comes in different sizes to fit any backyard.

Options for Small Backyard Composting:

Small Backyard Composter

Dual Composter

Larger Compost Systems

There are several options for larger compost systems, including:

  1. Windrow Composting: This method involves creating long piles of organic waste that are turned regularly to promote decomposition.

  2. Aerated Static Pile Composting: This system uses blowers or fans to circulate air through a static pile of organic waste, allowing for faster decomposition.

  3. In-Vessel Composting: Organic waste is placed in a large container or vessel and mixed and aerated to create an optimal environment for decomposition.

  4. Vermicomposting or worm compost: This method uses worms to break down organic waste into nutrient-rich compost in a worm compost system.

  5. Bokashi Composting: This system utilizes anaerobic fermentation to break down organic matter, making it an excellent option for food waste.

Each of these systems has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the amount and type of organic waste being processed, available space, and desired end product of finished compost.

Options for Large Backyard Composting

Larger 80 Gallon Composter

Large Cedar Wood Composter

What Goes in a Compost System?

For a healthy organism to thrive, it has four important components that must be decomposed: oxygen, carbon air and water. All composts have a minimum amount of carbon and varying amounts of nitrogen, composting will only require a good mixture of material to achieve the best ratio of carbon-to-nitrogen while still maintaining the correct amounts.

It is recommended that the ratio of carbon-to-nitrogen in compost is 30 parts carbon – 1 part nitrogen. The pile with the highest amounts of carbon content will become drier and take a long time to deteriorate. Too many nitrogenous materials could lead to slimy and smelly piles of compost.

There are carbon and nitrogen sources that you can use from around your home that will reduce landfill waste.

Add greens and browns to that you compost will start decomposing.

Here is a list of things that you can add to your compost pile:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps

  • Coffee grounds and filters

  • Tea bags and leaves

  • Eggshells

  • Fresh grass clippings and yard waste (leaves, twigs, etc.)

  • Shredded paper and cardboard

  • Hay and straw

  • Manure from herbivores (cow, horse, rabbit, etc.)

  • Sawdust and wood chips (in moderation)

  • Nut shells (except for walnut shells which contain a chemical that inhibits plant growth)

Here are a few bins to put these items in before taking them to main composter.

Farmhouse Countertop Container

Stainless Steel Compost Container

It’s important to note that not all materials are suitable for composting. Avoid adding meat, dairy products, oily foods, pet waste, or anything that has been treated with chemicals or pesticides.

These items can attract pests or introduce harmful substances into your compost pile. Also remember to balance out your “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials) with “browns” (carbon-rich materials) to ensure proper decomposition.

Keep it Balanced

Achieving that perfect balance can seem tricky but is key to getting the most out of your compost heap. To keep things ticking over, remember it’s all about striking a good carbon to nitrogen ratio – we’re talking 30:0.1.

That means ensuring equal parts brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen). Be sure you’re monitoring that formula. With a little bit of practice, balancing your perfect compost will soon become second nature.

Brown Materials for Carbon Rich Materials to Add:

Brown materials that you can add to your compost include dried leaves, straw, hay, wood chips, shredded newspaper, and cardboard.

These materials are carbon rich material and help to balance the nitrogen-rich materials such as food scraps and fresh grass clippings. Just be sure to shred or chop them into small pieces before adding them to your compost pile to speed up the decomposition process.

Green Materials for Nitrogen to Add:

Some examples include:

  • Grass clippings: These are a great source of nitrogen and can be added directly to the compost pile.

  • Vegetable scraps: Any vegetable waste from your kitchen, such as carrot tops or broccoli stems, can be added to the compost pile.

  • Coffee grounds: Used grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen and can be added directly to the compost pile. You just don’t want to overdo this. Don’t add too much because it will off balance the compost.

  • Tea leaves: Tea leaves are a good source of nitrogen and can be added directly to the compost pile.

Backyard compost changing up the structure of soil is beneficial.

Things to Avoid in Compost Pile

Here are some items that should be kept out of your compost:

  • Meat, bones, and dairy products: These items can attract pests and take a long time to break down.

  • Fats, oils, and grease: These can also attract pests and make it difficult for air to circulate in the compost pile.

  • Pet waste: This can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can be harmful to humans.

  • Diseased plants: If you add diseased plants to your compost pile, the disease could spread to other plants when you use the compost in your garden.

  • Weeds with seeds: If you add weed seeds to your compost pile, the seeds could sprout and cause problems when you use the compost in your garden.

By avoiding these items, you’ll have a healthy and effective compost pile that will provide nutrients for your garden.

How Does a Compost Work?

Cool Compost Process

The cool composting process is a slower passive composting that does not require high temperatures. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Gather your materials: Collect a mix of green and brown materials, such as vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and shredded paper.

  2. Layer your materials: Start with a layer of brown material on the bottom, then add a layer of green material on top. Continue alternating layers until the pile is about three feet high.

  3. Add water: Water the pile until it’s damp but not too wet.

  4. Cover the pile: Use a tarp or other cover to keep the pile moist and prevent it from drying out.

  5. Turn the pile occasionally with a garden fork: Every few weeks, use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the pile and aerate it.

  6. Wait for it to decompose: Depending on the size of your pile and conditions, it can take several months to a year for your compost to be ready.

The cool composting process may take longer than hot composting methods but has its benefits. It requires less maintenance and produces fewer odors while still creating nutrient-rich soil for your garden.

Hot Composting Process or Hot Pile

The hot composting process is a faster method of composting that uses high temperatures to break down materials more quickly. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Gather your materials: Collect a mix of green and brown materials, such as vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and shredded paper.

    Build your pile: Start with a layer of brown material on the bottom, then add a layer of green material on top. Continue alternating layers until the pile is about three feet high.

  2. Add water: Water the pile until it’s damp but not too wet.

  3. Monitor temperature: Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your compost pile. The ideal temperature range for hot composting is between 130-160°F (55-70°C).

  4. Turn the pile regularly: Every few days or once a week, use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the pile and aerate it. This helps distribute heat evenly throughout the pile.

  5. Wait for it to decompose: Depending on the size of your pile and conditions, it can take several weeks to several months for your compost to be ready.

The hot composting process requires more maintenance than cool composting methods but has its benefits. It produces nutrient-rich soil more quickly and kills off weed seeds and harmful bacteria through high temperatures!

Watering a Compost Pile

Maintaining the right moisture level for your compost pile is essential to achieve a balanced environment. Finding that perfect balance between dampness but not muddy can help ensure quality soil in no time.

Avoid wet or smelly piles with excessive dry air; it’s all about finding that sweet spot of humidity when breaking down organic matter into nutrient-rich soil.

Layer & Bury Your Food Waste

A common composting mistake is to not bury a discarded product or nitrogen. The green cover can help to eliminate smells, flies, insects, and animals, and also assists in efficient decomposition.

So when you dump your crocks, dig holes through your compost pile, add waste and put it back. You can also spin it to mix it or use a garden fork. Depending on how the compost is stacked, it may be necessary not always to add brown plant material or green material. Usually do it regularly if you add green materials in bulk.

When to Add Compost to Garden?

Give your garden a nutritional boost at the start of each season by adding 2-3 inches of finished compost.

Not only does it replenish the soil with vital nutrients, but it also acts as an insulator for those extreme temperatures of too hot or too cold. When used before planting and throughout the growing months, you’ll be rewarded with healthy garden plants all year.

How to Know if Compost is Ready to Use?

Knowing when your compost is ready to use can be determined by its appearance, texture, and smell. Finished compost should have a dark brown or black color and a crumbly texture that resembles soil. It should also have an earthy, sweet smell – if it smells bad or sour, it’s not fully decomposed yet.

Another way to test if your compost is ready is to perform a germination test. Take a small sample of your compost and plant some lettuce or radish seeds in it. If the seeds germinate and grow well, then your compost is likely finished and safe to use in your garden.

The process of composting can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on the materials used and the conditions of the compost pile. Be patient and keep turning your pile regularly until you achieve that rich, crumbly finished product.

Here are some worm composting systems:

The Essential Living Composter

Worm Factory 3 Trays

In Conclusion:

Composting can make a large impact on your soil and the world around. Taking advantage of this skill can bring big results that are seen later in the gardening season.

I hope that you take the step closer to trying out the tips and information in this blog post to composting. It’s a skill that everyone could benefit from, as you turn landfill waste into fresh compost.

Adding nutrients back into your garden after each season your compost.

FAQ’s

Is Composting at home worth it?

Absolutely! Composting at home is a great way to reduce waste, improve soil quality, and save money. By composting your food scraps and yard waste instead of throwing them away, you can divert up to 30% of your household waste from landfills.

This not only helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also creates nutrient-rich soil that can be used in your garden or lawn. Plus, it’s an easy and inexpensive way to dispose of organic waste while providing numerous benefits for both you and the environment.

What is the best way to compost at home?

Composting at home is a great way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Here are some tips for successful composting process.

  1. Choose the right container: You can use a compost bin, tumbler or just a pile. Make sure it’s big enough to hold all your compost materials.

  2. Add a mix of green and brown materials: Green materials such as veggie scraps, kitchen scraps, grass clippings and coffee grounds add nitrogen, while brown materials like leaves, straw and cardboard provide carbon.

  3. Keep it moist: A good compost pile should be damp but not too wet. Add water as needed to keep it moist.

  4. Turn it regularly: Turning the pile every few weeks helps aerate it and speeds up the decomposition process.

  5. Be patient: Composting takes time! Depending on the size of your pile and the conditions, it can take several months to a year for your compost to be ready.

Do compost bins smell?

Compost bins can have a mild odor, but if managed properly they should not produce a strong or unpleasant smell. To reduce odors, make sure to add a balanced mix of green and brown materials, avoid adding meat or dairy products, and keep the compost moist but not too wet.

You can also add a layer of dry leaves or other brown material on top of food scraps to help reduce any potential odor. If you notice a strong smell coming from your compost bin, it may be too wet or have too much nitrogen-rich material. If this happens, try adding more carbon-rich materials such as leaves or shredded paper to balance it out.

How do you compost for beginners?

  1. Choose a composting method: You can use a compost bin, tumbler or just a pile. Make sure it’s in a convenient location and has good drainage.

  2. Gather your materials: Collect green materials such as veggie scraps, grass clippings, as well as brown materials like leaves, straw, and cardboard.

  3. Layer your materials: Start with a layer of brown material on the bottom, then add a layer of green material on top. Continue alternating layers until the pile is about three feet high.

  4. Keep it moist: A good compost pile should be damp but not too wet. Add water as needed to keep it moist.

  5. Turn it regularly: Turning the pile every few weeks helps aerate it and speeds up the decomposition process.

  6. Be patient: Composting takes time. Depending on the size of your pile and the conditions, it can take several months to a year for your compost to be ready.

  7. Here is a list of resources to use with gardening to help you get started. And if you want to know how I started my gardening adventure, check this out.

If You Want More Information:

Permaculture Gardening

3 Ways to Garden for Bigger Harvest

Read Other Posts

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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