Home Composting Guide

Composting can be a wonderful addition to any backyard gardener’s skill set. Many people avoid composting, because they think it’ll be too hard or too gross – Neither of these things are true! When you have a compost method that works for you, composting can be really easy! Additionally, composting shouldn’t smell as long as you have the right balance of ingredients. This article will help breakdown the compost fear and help you get started on your very own adventure with compost!


What is Composting?

Composting is nature’s recycling system! This is when organic waste is broken down into smaller particles back into healthy soil for new plants to thrive off of. By having a compost pile in your garden you are helping this natural process occur and you’ll have extra healthy soil which means extra happy plants!


Why Compost?

  1. Composting helps reduce food waste!
  2. It provides healthy soil for your garden by fixing the pH levels and promoting healthy bacteria!
  3. Without food decomposing in your trash your house will smell better and you can take out the trash less often!
  4. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint!
  5. Composting helps the environment!
  6. You will save money on store bought fertilizers!
  7. Composting helps with moisture retention, so you’ll use less water in your garden!
  8. It attracts earthworms, which help aerate soil and aerated soil makes plants happy!


Compost Ingredients:

You should alternate two main layers of material in your compost pile. These layers are referred to as green layers (which add nitrogen) and brown layers (which add carbon). In your compost, you’ll want to have equal parts of both so ensure a healthy balance. If these layers are done correctly your compost should not smell bad and it will heat up and break down faster!

The green layer consists of garden plants, food scraps, grass clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. If your compost isn’t hot enough, add more greens!

The brown layer consists of dried leaves, newspaper, small wood clippings, sawdust, etc. If your compost is starting to smell bad, add more browns!


Compost Methods:

There are countless variations on composting! With so many options it can be hard to determine how you want to proceed.  Here are some of the most popular compost options:


Vermicomposting –

Vermicomposting is what most people imagine when they think of composting. This method uses red worms (note – grubs and night crawlers will not work) to help break down small amounts of organic matter. One pound of these worms can break down about half a pound of organic matter every day. Worm bins are easy to build, or if you’re not feeling exceptionally handy they are available to purchase!

Vermicomposting is best for people living in moderate climates or those who are willing to have their compost bins indoors, as the worms are sensitive to direct sunlight and temperatures under 55 degrees and over 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thankfully, this method doesn’t require much space and can even be done in apartments! This process only takes about 3-4 months for useable compost to be produced.

Worm bin for vermicomposting composting method for home garden

Bin Method-

Many backyard gardeners prefer this method, as it takes up less space and keeps the compost contained. Depending on the style of the bin, you’ll utilize different techniques and strategies. Always start with a layer of brown material, layer with green materials, add a layer of soil, and then add another of brown. Make sure to add some water and keep your compost pile moist. Once this is established, you can continuously add to your compost pile, making sure that you have enough of each type of material. To ensure that your compost is happily decomposing properly, water it on occasion to ensure that it is always moist and take care to turn the compost every couple of weeks. If you have a barrel shaped bin, turning the compost is significantly easier. This method takes about 3 months to produce healthy soil.

Bin method for composting in home garden

Pile Method-

If you don’t want to build or invest in a compost bin you can easily create a compost pile in your yard! Clear a space that is at least 3 feet by 3 feet wide. Start with a layer of coarse dry brown materials, then layer of green stuff, then a layer of soil, and top it off with a final layer of brown stuff. Water the compost pile, and let it sit. You’ll want your compost pile to get at least three feet high, so make sure you’re continuously adding to it.

Every week, make sure to water the compost to it is always moist. Every couple weeks, you’ll want to grab a pitchfork and turn your compost pile. These two steps ensure that the compost will continue to break down at a helpful and steady rate.  On average, this method takes about three months to produce happy compost that you can use in your garden.

Composting in home garden with pile method

Trench Composting-

This is by far the easiest method. Simply collect your food scraps for a couple weeks. When you have enough you can go your to your garden and find a section that you aren’t currently using. You’ll then dig a trench in one of your unused beds and then bury all your scraps in it! It will take about a month or so before the waste decomposes and you’ll be able to plant in that bed with healthy happy soil!


Common Mistakes:

  1. Don’t start too small – you need a lot of organic material for a proper breakdown!
  2. Use lots of different materials – your compost needs more than just food waste.
  3. Don’t put meat, fat, or bone products into your compost!
  4. Keep your compost moist – water is essential for the breakdown of organic materials.
  5. Make sure you are turning your compost regularly; air is a key component for decomposition.
  6. Do not add weeds to your compost! If the compost doesn’t get hot enough, they won’t fully break down and you’ll be essentially replanting weeds in your garden.

Now that you have learned the basics of composting you are ready to start planning your compost options in your own home! Composting isn’t nearly as scary or complicated as people think. With the right ingredients and some extra enthusiasm, you can start the process and have healthy happy soil for your garden. Start composting – the earth, your pocketbook, and your plants will thank you!


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