Everything You Need to Know (From Beginning to End) for Properly Composting at Home

How to Compost at Home

Sometimes, we really do fail to realize how many gifts Mother Nature is leaving right in front of us, or to be more specific, right in our backyards.

If you have a garden, then compost is something that can significantly benefit you by reducing the amount of organic waste that you dispose of in landfills, which will help to reduce the carbon dioxide that is created from your waste. 

This is a great step that you can start to do your part in reducing this greenhouse gas and help slow the global warming that is happening across the planet. Before you begin, the first thing that you are going to want to know is how to compost.

When you make the effort to compost, you are essentially turning nature’s debris into a material that can be extremely useful in a garden because of how beneficial it is to plants.

According to this article posted on the University of Illinois Extension website, compost is regarded by gardeners as “black gold.”

Introducing compost to different types of soil will lead to varied benefits being brought out. It’s not an exaggeration to say that composting is one of the keys to better gardening.

There are a lot of things that you can add to your compost pile, but if you have never created one before, you may be confused about the compost food that you can put in the pile to break down and use as fertilizer. You can also use things that decompose like leaf litter as well. 

So, how can you start composting in your own home? What kind of materials do you even need to get started? What’s the process going to be like?

In this guide, we are going to discuss everything that you need to know from start to end. By the end of reading this, you should have all the knowledge you will need to start a good compost pile in your own home that will help immensely with gardening and just waste reduction in general. 

Let’s get started

Things that You can Compost

All organic matter can be used in a compost pile, and these items will be made up of carbon and nitrogen. The carbon-to-nitrogen ratio needs to be at a certain level for the pile to decompose properly.

If the ratio of the gases is off, the pile could decompose more slowly or begin to smell with time.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, this balance can easily be maintained if you balance the green material and the brown material that is put into the pile. Brown materials are high in carbon, and they include items like cornstalks, leaves, peanut shells, pine needles, and fruit waste.

Greens are high in nitrogen, and they include vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, garden waste, grass clippings, and other food waste.

List of things (Brown and Green) that you can compost

#You Can CompostGreen or Brown#You Can CompostGreen or Brown
1Fruit ScrapsGreen21Facial TissueBrown
2Vegetable ScrapsGreen22Dryer LintBrown
3Coffee GroundsBrown23Cotton Fabric ScrapsBrown
4Tea LeavesBrown24Cotton TowelsBrown
5Egg ShellsBrown25Cotton SheetsBrown
6Paper TowelsBrown26DocumentsBrown
7Paper BagsBrown27Pencil ShavingsBrown
8Cooked RiceGreen28Dust BunniesBrown
9Stale BreadBrown29NewspapersBrown
10Toilet Tissue RollsBrown30Plant ScrapsBrown
11Cereal BoxesBrown31LeavesBrown
12Nut ShellsBrown32PotpourriBrown
13SeaweedGreen33Grass ClippingsGreen
14Pizza CrustsBrown34Smashed PumpkinsGreen
15Popcorn KernelsBrown35Hay BalesBrown
16Egg CartonsBrown36Pet FurGreen
17Wine CorksBrown37Hamster BeddingGreen
18Bamboo SkewersBrown38FeathersBrown
19Loose HairBrown39Dry Dog FoodBrown
20Cotton BallsBrown40Cow ManureGreen

Things You Should Not Compost

As we have discussed, there is a long list of items that can be used in a compost pile, but there is also a list of things that should never be added to the pile. In fact, some of these items can do more damage to the environment than good when they are composted. Let’s take a look at some of the things that should never be added to a compost pile.

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What is Compost Used for and Why is it Important?

Compost is a natural way that you can improve the soil that you use to grow your food. When the soil where you plant your food is not the best, it will take a lot of fertilizer to get the soil to the point where it can produce healthy fruit and vegetables that are beautiful. 

If you combine the compost that you make with the ground, you will not need to add additional fertilizer to get the soil that you want.

In addition, compost can actually act as a sponge, so it can help your plants get the water that they need, even if it has not rained in a while.

Why is it important to compost? Well, why wouldn’t you do it? It can help reduce the garbage that is sent to a landfill. 

There are numerous landfills across the world, and when the material is placed in a landfill, it does not decompose properly. It will only break down enough to create methane gas, which is a massive part of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. 

In fact, landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions that are created as a result of human activity, so minimizing our waste is essential and composting can help reduce your waste by quite a bit.

How to Compost at Home

When you start a compost pile at your home, you will be able to greatly minimize the waste that you create. When you start thinking about the good that reducing your waste can do, you will begin to purchase items that will have less waste as well. 

You will have a mindset shift that will mean that you purchase more food that is less excessive when it comes to plastic packages. 

To start your own compost pile, you are going to need to create a space where you can store the organic food so that it can be broken down.

This is a simple DIY project that you can do at home.

How Does a Compost Bin Work and Why Do You Need It?

A compost bin is designed to take organic material that you put in it and break it down over time so that it turns into a rich material that can help feed the soil that you have your plants in.

This can significantly improve the health of the plants that are in your garden by giving them nutrients that the soil is lacking.

The science behind this process is simple to understand, but it is actually a complex process that automatically happened to organic food to speed up the process of something that is naturally decaying. 

The key to creating a compost pile is to create an environment outside of your home where microorganisms can thrive. This will include warm temperatures, a moist atmosphere, and plenty of oxygen along with the food that you are trying to decompose.

According to Cornell University, when you have these conditions, there are three stages that the compost will need to follow to complete the cycle. 

The first stage of the process occurs at temperatures that range between 68 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit, and it should only take a few days. During this time, the heat will cause the food to break down naturally. During this stage, the mesophilic microorganisms are replaced with thermophilic microorganisms.

During the second stage, which can last from a few days to several months, the thermophilic microbes will work to break down the material into finer material. This second stage will break down the proteins and complex carbohydrates more thoroughly.

During this stage, aeration should be incorporated into the process as well as turning the compost to help manage the temperature so that it does not become too high and kill the microorganisms.

The final stage is the process of the temperatures dropping back down while the compost finishes breaking down into an even smaller substance. This will take several months to be fully broken down.

Tools You need for building The Compost Bin and Composting Procedure:

Wooden pallets – It would be best if you could gather wooden pallets to use because they will cut down significantly on your prep time for bin creation. If you’re lucky and find ones of equal size, you won’t even need to cut them.
  • Alternative: Wooden boards can also be used for the compost bin, but they will take more time to put together.
Screws- You are going to have to attach the wooden pallets/boards yourself, and the screws are the best tool for that. Don’t be stingy when it comes to the screws. Go to the hardware store and grab way more than you think you will need as it’s always better to have extra than to have to go back just to get more.
Screwdriver- Obviously, this is what you will need to get the screws properly driven into the wood. Try to look for one with a comfortable handle because you will be using this tool a lot.

Drill – This is what you need to use for creating the holes that the screws will go into.

Hinges – The hinges aren’t essential to the compost bin we’ll be creating per se, but if you do want more convenient access to it, these should be included in your shopping list. If you do want to omit the hinges, you can just make the compost bin a little shorter so that it’s easier to access.

Metal latches – These will only be needed if you are going to create a door for your compost bin. Otherwise, feel free to omit them from your shopping list too.

Saw – A hand saw will suffice because the wooden pallets/boards are the only things that will need to be cut.

Chicken wire – The chicken wire will be useful for ensuring that the compost material will stay in the bin. You can get by without the wire, but you may have to clean up messes in your yard every now and then.

  • Alternative: Netting can work if you can’t find chicken wire right away. Plastic netting is an option here but does try to find sheets with tiny holes if possible.

Hammer – It’s best to hammer the chicken wire/netting into the wood to make sure that it’s not blown away by the wind.

Nails – These are your best bet for holding down the chicken wire/netting.

Tarp – According to the EPA, using a tarp to cover up your compost will help keep it moist.

For Gathering and Processing The Leaves:

Leaf vacuum – If you’re serious about turning leaves into compost, you will need a good gathering tool. A leaf vacuum will be more than worth the investment as it will significantly cut down on the time you have to spend rounding up the leaves. A vacuum cleaner can also be used.

  • Alternative: Leaf blowers can also be used for pushing the leaves into piles, but they are trickier to use.
  • Alternative: Rakes should only be used if something is wrong with your leaf vacuum or leaf blower or if you’re only eyeing the creation of small compost heaps.

Leaf shredder – The leaves that you intend to add to your compost can’t just be added whole especially if they’re on the larger side. A leaf shredder will help you process leaves faster and that, in turn, will lead to the quicker growth of your compost heap.

  • Alternative: Lawnmowers work fine for processing the leaves and getting them to the ideal size, though it may take more time to use them.
  • Alternative: Leaf claws will help you gather and process leaves at the same time, but their downside is that they can’t work as fast as the other tools mentioned above.

Shovel – This is something you need for moving the compost. It will make transporting the compost to the plants you are trying to grow much easier.

Now, that you are aware of all the materials you need to have for composting leaves, let’s get to the step-by-step guide for starting and completing the process.

Create Your Compost Bin

This is going to be the most labor-intensive part of the process, but you should be able to finish it in a few hours if you have the right materials.

Start by positioning the wooden pallets in such a way that they form a box shape. Join them together by using the drill, screws, screwdriver, and the corner brackets.

If you intend to create a door for your compost bin, you can cut one of the wooden pallets in half with a saw, and then position the two now smaller segments of the pallet in one side of the frame. You want them to work like stable doors, as shown here in this video from GrowVeg.

The metal latches and hinges can be added to the doors to complete them. Additional brackets can be installed at the corners of the compost to make it sturdier. Cover the walls of the compost bin in chicken wire and hold them in place using the hammer and nails.

You can also install the tarp over the compost bin as a finishing touch.

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