How to start composting for beginners

A step by step guide with the essentials to compost 

Garden season is here, which is a great excuse to compost. Here the benefits and some basics on how to start composting for beginners and repurpose it for gardening!

As the summer months are upon us, you may be feeling inspired to start a garden and grow your only fruits and vegetables. Growing your own produce is not only rewarding, but it is also cheaper and healthier as your fruits and vegetables do not contain chemicals and pesticides. Farmers that are producing ample amounts of produce use pesticides and chemical fertilizer to make the produce grow as well as to keep bugs and animals away; however, these chemicals can be detrimental to human health.

If one of the reasons you are growing your own produce is to avoid chemicals, it will be worth your while to consider using natural fertilizer in your garden. Natural fertilizer will ensure that you are not ingesting any chemicals and that your produce is as organic as possible. You can purchase natural fertilizer, or you can make your own, and one of the best ways to do that is by creating a compost pile.

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What Are the Benefits of Composting?

If you are unfamiliar with what a compost pile is, a compost pile is a pile of food scraps that are used to fertilize plants. Compost will form when microorganisms consume organic materials and, in the process, break them down into a form that plants in your garden can absorb as nutrients. Composting is easy to do and can be done right at home. With that being said, you may be wondering what some of the benefits of composting are. Here are a few:

How to start composting for beginners

You Will Be Recycling Waste

Instead of letting waste sit in a landfill, you will be able to put it to good use. Waste that sits in a landfill does not compose in a beneficial way, instead, it is converted into methane gas which is harmful to the environment and is part of what is increasing the rate of global warming.

Instead of letting waste decay and serve no purpose, a compost pile will turn your food scraps into viable material that can be utilized by your plants and garden. Most food waste, including fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells, can be composted effectively and contribute to creating nutrient-rich soil for your garden. In addition, detailed guides on composting all types of food waste are available online. 

You Will be Adding Important Organisms to the Soil

Microscopic organisms that are found in compost piles will make their way into the soil and help break down the material so that the plants can absorb nutrients easier. These organisms will also ward off plant disease. 

How to start composting for beginners

What Can I Compost?

As you begin your compost pile, you need to know what exactly you can compost. A good rule of thumb is to compost waste that is either nitrogen or carbon-based. Carbon-rich material will give the compost piles, and eventually the soil, light and fluffy body. Nitrogen, on the other hand, is important for creating enzymes in the compost pile and eventually the soil. Below is a short guide of some materials you are able to compost.

How to start composting for beginners - A step by step guide with the essentials to compost
Credit Infographic: Ourgoodbrands.com

Carbon-Based Materials

  • Coffee filters/grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Moss
  • Branches
  • Stems
  • Shredded brown paper bags
  • Wood ash

Nitrogen-Based Materials

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Leaves
  • Lawn clippings
  • Manure 

What You Need to Know About How to Compost

After getting a better understanding of what goes into creating a compost pile, you will be ready to actually start composting. Here is what you should know.

The Groundwork (Literally)

Begin your compost pile on the bare earth as this will allow for microorganisms and worms to aerate the compost before it is transported to your garden. Be sure to lay twigs and straw on the ground first so that your compost pile can drain properly. Next, you can begin adding compost in layers (make sure you alternate between moist and dry). It’s important to keep your compost moist; you can water it if your home doesn’t get much rain.

Cover and Turn Your Compost Pile

Cover your compost pile with wood or plastic in order to keep the moisture and heat inside of the pile. Every few weeks, turn your pile with a shovel or a pitchfork to aerate it. If your compost pile isn’t getting enough oxygen, your waste will not break down the way that it’s supposed to.

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What You Shouldn’t Compost

It’s also extremely beneficial to know what you should not add to your compost pile. Certain waste will not break down which will not only make your compost pile ineffective, it could also end up damaging your soil. Here are some things you should not add to your compost pile:

  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Fish
  • Pet manure
  • Fruit peels or orange rinds

Where to Store Your Compost

Your actual compost pile should be outside so that it is easy to transport to your garden, and because compost piles often develop harsh odors. However, you have a few options as to where exactly outside you can start your compost pile, including:

  • An enclosed bin
  • A compost tumbler
  • A garbage can
  • An open compost pile in the back of your yard

Here some great DIY compost bin ideas!

How to start composting for beginners - A step by step guide with the essentials to compost
Credit Infographic: Ourgoodbrands.com

3 More Helpful Tips About Composting

  1. If you want to speed up the rate in which yard waste breaks down, chop large materials into smaller pieces and add leaves and grass clippings throughout the pile.
  2. If you want to benign your compost pile in your kitchen before taking it outdoors (usually this is more convenient for homeowners), consider starting the pile in a stainless steel compost pail or a ceramic pail. These kinds of pails will mask as much odor as possible. It’s also worth pointing out that these containers should be stored under the sink or in a place away from fresh food.
  3. Be sure to mix in a good amount of coarse materials such as straw as you begin your compost pile. The coarse material will allow you to turn your pile easier and will also help the compost break down a bit faster so you have healthy plant food even quicker. 

How to start composting for beginners

Start Your Compost Pile Today

Consider incorporating a compost pile into your outdoor landscape this season. One of the beauties of a compost pile is that it can be done in any kind of home or climate. Whether you live in an apartment in the city, or you live on acres and acres of land, you are capable of starting a compost pile and providing your landscape with quality nutrients. Composting is easy, especially if you keep tips such as the ones above in mind. And, there aren’t’ any downsides to starting your compost pile; start composting today.

How to start composting for beginners

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Jennifer Walker

Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beach goer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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