How to Start Composting ~ How to Start a Compost Pile

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The idea of composting is appealing to many because it’s easy to do. But where to begin and how to start composting is where some people get stuck.

You know composting has many benefits. What’s great about composting is you will enrich your soil and grow awesome Orchids while using scraps from fruits and vegetables as well as yard material — nothing goes to waste.

These are things you already have that you are likely throwing away.

You can likely compost anywhere you live.

First, you’ll need to consider whether you will start a compost pile or use a compost bin.

Before you decide, there are factors to consider.

How to Compost at Home for Beginners Guide

Space is a big consideration.

If you have some land, you can use concrete blocks or bricks to build a compost heap. You will use these blocks to contain your compost. It will also help to keep the scavengers away.

If you don’t want to define the area with blocks, you can start a heaping compost pile all on its own. This works well if you have an out-of-the-way area on your property.

When your compost is exposed, it will be up to you to rotate it. You will do this with a shovel or rake, turning over the organic matter a few times a month.

This is more labor-intensive than having a composting bin that you can rotate.

Also, know that with compost heaps and compost piles, it will smell. You may attract flies and critters.

Depending on where it is on your property, this can affect your neighbors as well.

If you have wildlife, live in an HOA, or have a smaller space, you may opt for a compost bin.

In these instances, an outdoor composting tumbler can be a great option. It will keep your organic matter and food scraps contained. It won’t attract flies, wildlife; nor will it smell.

Getting Started Composting

If time is a factor, it may be easier to use a compost bin as well. Compost bins are easy to turn over and may be less labor intensive than raking and turning over an outdoor compost heap with a shovel or rake.

After seeing many different types of composting set ups, we learned you can probably compost wherever you live.

In addition, you can compost without using worms — vermicomposting — which might be more appealing.

Building a Compost Pile
We pulled this straw off the garlic this spring, so it can be composted now.

How to Compost at Home for Beginners

Household composting is the process of converting kitchen and yard waste into valuable fertilizer.

When a family’s compostable materials go to a compost bin instead of the trash can, waste can be reduced by up to 30%.

Our family eats a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, we toss a lot of it as well.

There’s the not-so-great-tasting parts as well as some stems, cores, pits, and rinds. There are the tops of carrots and pineapples, the ends of the onions, and watermelon rinds.

Sometimes, we forget about produce and it goes bad.

All of this is wasted.

However, when you compost these vegetable and fruit scraps, you use all of it.

Think of composting like you think of recycling: an easy step you take to preserve the environment.

Like recycling and using less overall, composting can become second-nature.

Once you get started, composting is easy.

Why Should You Compost at Home?

  • Compost turns into a valuable fertilizer for gardens and lawns
  • Composting saves up to 1/3 of landfill space
  • You use up all of your produce scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, etc.
  • Compost is easy to dispose of if unneeded

How to compost at home for beginners in five steps:

1. Get a compost pail.

A stainless steel compost pail or other compost container will make kitchen clean-up easier, and you can store it in your kitchen.

This is the simplest step of composting.

Compost pails are affordable and simple. You can find them at most home stores and gardening stores.

To reduce smells in your kitchen from composting, opt for a stainless steel compost pail with an air filter. Or you can use most any pail with a secure lid.

In addition, the stainless steel composting pails and other containers made for this purpose are designed to look nice on your kitchen counter.

In a pinch, you can use an empty coffee can or other container.

2. Know what inside household waste is compostable.

This is easy. From inside your home, think fruits and vegetables.

This includes all produce scraps from your fresh fruits and vegetables. You can use cooked vegetables if they don’t contain added oils, butter, or meat fats.

In addition, egg shells, tea bags, and coffee grounds are good materials you can use instead of discarding them.

You can add banana peels but know they often attract fruit flies.

3. Know what outside waste is compostable.

Likewise, you can add yard waste directly into your outside compost area.

Instead of putting your grass clippings in a garbage bin, you can compost them. If autumn where you live means you have to rake leaves, gather them up to add to your compost pile.

Other yard debris such as straw, wood ash, weeds, etc. There’s a lot of compostable materials you can use. You can even chop twigs, tree branches, trunks, etc.

Basically, if it grows, it goes! (As a general rule, for the beginner composter, this excludes meat and dairy products.)

4. Think about worms. Do I need worms to compost?

Before starting a compost pile or using a composting bin, decide if you want to have worms.

Composting with worms is called vermicomposting.

Worms aren’t essential to compost but it’s important to decide if you will want to vermicompost. If you want to use a bin rather than a compost pile, there are special vermicomposting bins.

wood ash compost
This wood ash will be great in the compost pile.

5. Choose a composting system. Pile or Bin?

There are two decisions to then make.

Are you going to make an outdoor compost pile or use a compost container / tumbler?

Compost pile

You can make your own compost pile by layering compost materials over bare earth, alternating with dry materials such as leaves, straw, or sawdust.

Pumpkins Growing in Compost pile
Pumpkins Growing in Compost pile

Your compost pile needs to remain moist. During certain parts of the year, depending where you live, you may want to cover it with wood or plastic sheeting to keep in moisture and warmth.

Add additional compost materials to the top of the pile, and harvest compost from the bottom.

The pile will need to be turned every few weeks with a shovel in order to aerate the compost.

We know a few people with a heaping pile of compost on their property. They add to it but pretty much just let it do it’s thing naturally.

Compost bin

Alternatively, you can buy a compost bin or compost tumbler.

Outdoor compost tumblers take much of the work out of composting. You simply turn the handle to rotate the compost.

Compost tumblers and compost bins make storage easy and more sightly.

They will minimize the smell and not attract scavengers and other wildlife.

If you live in an HOA or have neighbors close by, you may choose a compost bin over a composting pile.

Other things to consider are the heat. For example, living in the southwestern part of the United States, you may not want an exposed compost pile in the summer unless it’s far from your living area.

You can even use continuous-use composters indoors, where raw compost materials are kept separate from completed compost. Indoor composters are ideal for people with small balconies or not much yard space.

How to Start a Compost Pile
How to Start a Compost Pile

Starting a Compost Pile

When we started composting, it was really exciting to be able to use the scraps from all of our fruits and vegetables.

We didn’t use fertilizers before and were looking forward to seeing how much better our garden would grow using compost.

It was less wasteful overall and motivated us to buy more organic produce knowing we would use all of it — either by eating it or composting it.

We were happy to be minimizing the methane gas by-products as well.

We are happy to be using compost to grow an awesome garden. It’s satisfying to use everything again and again.

Use Your Compost to Fertilize Your Garden or Yard

DIY Raised Garden Bed
DIY Raised Garden Bed

Compost is a great organic fertilizer, and can be used for planter boxes, raised gardens, indoor potted plants, and your yard and lawn. It also saves the cost of bringing in extra dirt.

While it may seem daunting to begin composting, it’s easy to begin to compost at home.

Whether you are a beginner at composting or have done it for years, you will love being able to reuse what would otherwise be kitchen waste and scraps filling up our landfills.

Deciding Whether to Compost

You have three choices for disposing of your compostable materials.

You can either:

  1. Use your own compost in your garden
  2. Dispose of your compost using curb-side waste removal
  3. Take your compostable materials to a compost site

If you have no need for compost in your own garden or yard, and do have curbside residential garbage pick up, your service provider might offer yard waste and compost service.

You may already have it.

Our town offers this in the form of a green barrel designed for yard waste and leaves.

Residents simply deposit their compostable materials directly from their compost pails to their curb-side barrels.

Be sure to check your city’s guidelines.

There are increasingly more areas (Vancouver, Canada comes to mind) that requires the residents to compost their food scraps.

If your curb-side garbage service does not allow for compostable materials in its yard waste bin, you’ll want to find a local compost removal service or compost buying service.

Getting Started Composting

It’s important for you to consider which composting method will work best for you.

Will you vermicompost? Will you start a compost pile or begin composting with a tumbler?

It may seem daunting to start composting but once you make these decisions upfront, the rest will fall into place.

You will learn about the proper ratio of paper, water, and plant matter.

You will feel good about using leftover fruit and vegetable scraps.

In no time, you will be on your way to composting.

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