The steps for composting for beginners are straightforward as the basics involve the breakdown of organic materials. Bacteria in compost bins aid in the decomposition of organic matter and turn it into nutrient-rich compost for fertilizing soil.
The benefits of composting at home start with the cost-effectiveness of creating your organic fertilizer. The same commercial fertilizer available in stores for a hefty price tag is available to make for free at home with a little planning on how to construct a compost pile.
Because the composting process involves using food scraps as compost material, the environmental benefit of composting methods means reducing your household waste and, as a result, landfill waste. Most food waste, including vegetable scraps, is beneficial when added to a compost heap to break down and add vital nutrients to finished compost.
How to Compost at Home for Beginners
Creating usable compost involves more than tossing kitchen scraps into a pile. Turning organic waste into “black gold” requires knowledge of which materials to use in the heap and how to maintain your compost pile until it’s ready for the garden.
To start composting, you’ll need the right supplies to make a compost bin and to decide what kind of compost to create. Most compost bins rely on microorganisms to break down materials, while other gardeners prefer to use earthworms in a worm compost bin to produce vermicompost.
Composting for Beginners
Find out how to start composting for beginners. First, composting requires a space to create your compost. Make a compost bin using plastic containers, purchase a compost tumbler, use a kitchen waste composting machine or start an open pile.
Use a bucket or container to collect kitchen waste for composting. Add the contents to your compost pile as your container fills to build up the height.
We separate compost materials into two categories: brown and green. Brown materials include compost material rich in carbon, like easy-to-find dried leaves, yard waste, and wood chips. Green materials for composting contain nitrogen, including most food items, grass clippings, and garden waste like plant debris.
If you have some, it’s great to add composted sheep manure or other poop to the compost pile, too. Manure from cows, goats, chickens, and rabbits all work well.
How to Start Composting for Beginners
Once you have a compostable material collection, begin building your pile by following a ratio guide. For a successful compost, create a ratio in your compost that is two-thirds brown material and one-third green material.
Use twigs or straw to make a base layer for compost. When putting material on your pile, add one layer at a time, alternating between brown and green material. Building up a few inches of a base helps with drainage of excess liquid that develops in your compost pile. The best way to compost leaves for the brown material is to ensure that they are dry. Put newspaper in your compost that has been shredded as part of the browns, too.
After adding a nitrogen source to your compost, it starts decomposing. Monitor the moisture of your compost. When checking the compost with a rake or shovel, the pile should be damp but not dripping.
To make the best compost for beginners, use a shovel to turn over the compost pile in a process known as hot composting, allowing the center of the compost to warm and reach temperatures necessary to break down materials and kill weed seeds.
With oxygen and moisture from turning your pile over, the microorganisms in a pile decompose the material and create compost. With a balance between green and brown waste, adding finished compost to the garden provides abundant nutrients to garden plants.
Composting without turning over the pile is cold composting. Although not recommended, many gardeners leave their piles unturned during winter months to avoid losing the heat that grows in the middle of the pile. Cold composting extends the time it takes for your compost to finish from a few months to a year.
Materials to Avoid Composting
The system behind composting does not mean any scrap or organic item from around your home gets included as material. Some things cause more harm than good in compost heaps.
Because we include grass clippings as a type of material for compost, the natural thought is that all weeds work as compost material. As weeds grow, they develop seeds, and in compost, these seeds raise an issue as weeds are invasive plants and may sprout through the compost in the garden.
Animal byproducts like dairy and meat aren’t good in compost because of the odor they create as they decompose. Dairy in the compost results in composting that does not allow oxygen, and adding rotting meat to a compost invites disease-carrying rodents.
Fatty foods like peanut butter, dressings, and oils don’t combine well with compost and attract animals. Most plastics are not compostable and won’t break down in a pile, disrupting the compost process.
Keep plants suffering from disease or plants treated with a chemical fertilizer out of the compost. The heat of your compost may not kill lingering bacteria or chemicals on plant debris, resulting in compost that contains harmful elements.
Problems with Composting
When learning how to compost at home for beginners, the main concern is the smell of decomposing food material. With the right materials, compost piles don’t have much of a smell. If the pile begins to stink, use a shovel to turn the pile over or include new materials like dry leaves.
Adding grass clippings helps mask smells and keep insects away. If you’re concerned about insects feeding on your compost and laying eggs, add a layer of grass clippings to the top of the compost pile. You may also find maggots in your compost pile. Some of these fly larvae are fine but add more browns to your compost if they start to overwhelm the heap.
Based on your location and the material in your compost, rodents and raccoons may become a problem. To deter animals from visiting your pile, regularly turn the pile. The heat from a turned pile deters animals from messing with it. Starting a compost pile in an animal-resistant bin is another way to avoid animal disturbance.
If you begin composting without a bin, designate a space of at least nine square feet to build your pile. As you add new material, your compost grows as tall as it is wide.
When is Compost Finished?
The timeframe for raw materials to decompose into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden varies. The organic material used to create compost determines how long it takes for compost to finish decomposing.
Scraps of food decompose faster than sticks from trees, and tea bags take longer to decompose than organic materials like leaves. As your pile deteriorates, the bottom layer turns into fertilizer first; regularly turning the compost allows the pile to decompose evenly.
The best way to know if your aged compost is ready is by appearance. Finished compost resembles rich dark soil. If your compost looks uniform and you can’t pick out specific scraps, it’s time to use the compost in the garden.
Harvest from the bottom of the pile once or twice a year; any compost you don’t use remains to break down further as you continue adding material to the compost heap. After planting flowers in pots for beginners, add some compost as side dressing or mix it into the soil to provide nutrients for your plants. Use topsoil or better compost to encourage plants to thrive.
Aside from spreading compost across your garden’s soil, there is another popular method for using compost in the garden.
Making Compost Tea
Compost tea is a fertilizer that allows compost to steep in water for a few days to extract nutrients. After making compost tea for plants, use the leftover liquid to water your garden and potted plants to quickly allow them to absorb the nutrients.
The most straightforward way to make compost tea is to line a five-gallon with old fabric like a pillowcase—shovel compost into the pillowcase to fill the bucket two-thirds of the way. Secure the string before filling the rest of the bucket with water.
Leave your compost to sit in the water for up to three days, stirring at least once a day, before the tea is ready. Pull the bag from the bucket and allow the liquid to strain out.
Dilute the compost tea with water until the liquid in the bucket is light brown. After mixing more water into your bucket, use a watering can to distribute compost tea to the plants like you regularly water them. The ingredients used to make compost tea vary based on the required issues gardeners need to tackle for their plants.
We hope learning how to compost at home for beginners shows that composting is a rewarding hobby every gardener should try at least once to experience the benefits that easy composting at home brings.
Throughout the gardening world, many organizations encourage gardeners to compost for its benefit to the environment. Black Earth Compost offers a curbside composting service that takes the stress of finding a suitable compost space. This solution is perfect for gardeners in urban areas who may not have yard space to dedicate to composting.
If our guide on composting for beginners has inspired you, please share our tips on how to start composting for beginners with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest.